US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrived in Jerusalem late Tuesday night amidst announcements that a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas had been delayed by at least one day.
A Hamas official said late Tuesday night that Egyptian efforts to broker a truce with Israel had been held up because the Israeli government had yet to respond to proposals, indicating there would be no ceasefire until Wednesday at the earliest.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian government said that it had no plans to announce a cease-fire yet, CNN reported.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said late Tuesday that his movement still has not received Israel's response to the proposed cease-fire.
Abu Zuhri said that the Egyptian presidency would announce any cease-fire agreement when and if it is reached.
He said that in the meantime Hamas and other Palestinian groups would continue to respond to Israeli "crimes."
Earlier, another Hamas spokesman, Ayman Taha, declared that a cease-fire agreement had been reached under the auspices of the Egyptians.
Taha claimed that the cease-fire agreement would go into effect around midnight.
Islamic Jihad officials also talked about an imminent cease-fire. Islamic Jihad representative Abu Emad al-Rifai said that a cease-fire agreement would be announced during a press conference in Cairo at 9.00 p.m.
He described the ostensible cease-fire accord as a "victory" for the Palestinian armed groups.
However, top Hamas official Ezat Risheq later denied the reports about a cease-fire agreement. He said he did not expect any agreement to be announced Tuesday night. He added that as far as the Palestinians were concerned, "all options remain open."
Prime Minister's Office spokesman Mark Regev earlier told The Jerusalem Post "Until you're there, you're not there."
US State Department Victoria spokeswoman carefully avoided the word cease-fire in her Washington press briefing and referred instead to de-escalation.
She said that what was needed was to end the rocket fire and restore calm, to create space to address “broader issues.”
Clinton as well as US President Barack Obama have been in touch with Egyptian, Israeli and European leaders in the past days, Nuland said.
Obama on Tuesday spoke on the telephone with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi about ways to restore calm.
Clinton’s arrival followed on the heels of a visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. He spent the morning in Cairo, from where Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has worked to mediate an end to the violence.
Ban then arrived in Israel to meet with Israeli leaders. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle who was in Israel Tuesday morning flew to Cairo.
At a joint press conference with Ban,Netanyahu said, “If a long term diplomatic solution can be put in place through diplomatic means, than Israel would be a willing partner.”
Already on Sunday, Israel agreed to hold off on a ground offensive into Gaza, to allow time for diplomacy to work.
But, Netanyahu told Ban, “if stronger military actions proves necessary to stop the constant barrage of rockets Israel will not hesitate to do what is necessary to defend our people.”
Since Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Germany have staunchly defended its right to protect its citizens from Hamas rocket attacks.
But a number international leaders have cautioned that they would not support a ground offensives.
Ban went further and hinted to Netanyahu that it could be illegal under international law.
Netanyahu said that Hamas was committing a “double war crime, by indiscriminately targeting Israeli civilians while they hide behind their own.
“The moment we draw symmetry between the victims of terror and the unintended casualties that result from legitimate military action against the terrorists, the minute that false symmetry is drawn, the terrorists win,” he said.
As someone who only nine months ago visited Sderot, Ban said, “I know how difficult the situation is here.” But he added, a ground operation would only result in further tragedy.
Reuters and jpost.com staff contributed to this report
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