US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Jerusalem late Tuesday night
amid reports that a deal on a truce between Israel and Hamas was
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said his movement was waiting
for Israel’s response to a cease-fire proposal.
Abu Zuhri said that the
Egyptian presidency would announce any cease-fire agreement when and if it was
In the meantime, Hamas and other Palestinian groups would
continue to respond to Israeli “crimes,” he said.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu held a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister
Avigdor Liberman before meeting with Clinton.
“America’s commitment to
Israel’s security is rock sold and unwavering. That is why we believe it is
essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza,” Clinton said before meeting
The rocket attacks against Israel must end and calm must be
restored, she said.
“The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes
regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of
Israelis and Palestinians alike,” Clnton said.
“Our hearts break for the
loss of every civilian, Israeli and Palestinian. I know that today was a
difficult day and I offer my deepest condolences to the loved ones of the lost
The Gaza crisis, she said, underscores the urgency to find
an outcome that bolsters Israeli security, improves living conditions for the
people in Gaza and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people in the
She said she planned to discuss this with Netanyahu, and later
with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, before heading on Wednesday
Egypt, she said, has the responsibility and the opportunity to
play a crucial and constructive role in restoring calm.
avoided the word “cease-fire” in her remarks with Netanyahu and referred instead
She said that what was needed was to end the rocket
fire and restore calm, to create space to address “broader issues.”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reports in Washington that
Clinton, as well as US President Barack Obama, have been in touch with Egyptian,
Israeli and European leaders in the past days, Nuland said.
on the telephone on Tuesday with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi about ways to
restore calm between Gaza and Israel.
Clinton’s arrival followed a visit
earlier in the day by UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon.
He spent the
morning in Cairo.
Ban then arrived in Jerusalem to meet with Israeli
leaders. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who was in Israel on 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 the Gaza Strip, to allow time for
diplomacy to work.
But, Netanyahu told Ban, “If stronger military actions
prove necessary to stop the constant barrage of rockets, Israel will not
hesitate to do what is necessary to defend our people.”
launched Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday, the United States, the
European Union, the United Kingdom and Germany have defended its right to
protect its citizens from Hamas rockets.
But a number of international
leaders have cautioned that they would not support a ground
Ban went further and hinted to Netanyahu that it could be
illegal under international law.
The prime minister 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.”
added, a ground operation would only result in further tragedy.
rockets may be aimed at military targets inside Gaza, [but] they kill and injure
civilians and damage civilian infrastructures.
“The loss of civilian
lives is unacceptable under any circumstances. The excessive use of force is
unlawful and must be rejected,” Ban said.
“I appeal to all those
commanding, bearing and operating arms — weapons — to respect international
humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians at all times,” he
Further violence, Ban said, would not make Israelis or Palestinians
He added that he had come to the region with a plea to end
Liberman, in his meeting with Ban, repeated for him the
message that he gave the German foreign minister earlier in the
“Public calls from the international community to refrain from [IDF]
ground activity [in Gaza] strengthens Hamas and extends the conflict,” Liberman
Westerwelle pledged his country’s support both for Israel’s right
to defend itself and for its basic demand that Hamas stop firing
“There is one key condition for everything else, and that is the
stop of the missile attacks against Israel,” he said.
He added, “I’m here
to underline that Germany stands by our friends in Israel, and Israel has every
right to defend itself and protect their own citizens against these missile
attacks from Gaza into your country.”
After Westerwelle left for Cairo,
Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha declared that a cease-fire agreement had been reached
under the auspices of the Egyptians.
He said it would go into effect at
midnight, following a 9 p.m. press conference.
He described the
ostensible armistice accord as a “victory” for the Palestinian armed
But, in the end, no press conference was held and no cease-fire
Another top Hamas official, Ezat Risheq, later denied the
reports about an agreement. He said he did not expect any agreement to be
announced on Tuesday night. He added that as far as the Palestinians were
concerned, “all options remain open•