International leaders are due to arrive in the region in the coming days in an effort to calm the hostilities
between Israel and Hamas and to help broker a cease-fire.
reported on Saturday night that according to Arab sources, a cease-fire brokered
by Egypt, Turkey and Qatar was in the works.
There were “some
indications” of the possibility of a cease-fire soon, but there were “no
guarantees” yet, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said.
Khaled Mashaal, who is in Cairo, held talks on Saturday with Mohamed Shehata,
head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, on the possibility of achieving a
cease-fire, sources close to Hamas said.
The Arab League in Cairo on
Saturday said it backed Egypt’s effort to secure a truce. It plans to send a
delegation to Gaza in the coming days.
French Foreign Minister Laurent
Fabius is due to arrive in Jerusalem on Sunday, according to Israel’s Foreign
He will be in both Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is also expected to arrive in the next few days. He
will visit Israel, the Palestinian territories and Egypt.
States has urged Egypt and Turkey to pressure Hamas to halt its rocket attacks
On Saturday night, as Operation Pillar of Defense entered
its fourth day, major international leaders – including US President Barack
Obama and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton – backed Israel’s
right to self-defense, but spoke of the need to de-escalate the
Even though it was Shabbat, the nine-member security cabinet
met in Tel Aviv.
At the same time, cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser held a
telephone vote with the full cabinet, which authorized calling up 75,000
reservists into duty, up from the 30,000 previously okayed, in case the
government decides to send ground forces into Gaza.
Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman also met on Friday and on Saturday night.
Netanyahu lobbies international support
On Saturday, Netanyahu
spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti,
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas and
British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Netanyahu reiterated his message
that no country in the world would agree to a situation in which its population
lives under constant missile threat.
On Friday, he held his second
conversation with US Obama since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense. He
thanked Obama for supporting Israel’s right to defend itself and for US
assistance in buying the Iron Dome antimissile batteries.
Obama in turn
called Morsi, commended his efforts to deescalate the situation and said he
hoped they would be successful.
Obama said he regretted the loss of
Israeli and Palestinian lives. He added that it was important to resolve the
situation as quickly as possible to restore stability and prevent any further
On Saturday, Obama called Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan
and spoke with him about ways to stop the violence.
Ben Rhodes, White
House deputy national security adviser, told reporters the US “wants the same
thing as the Israelis want,” which is an end to rocket attacks on Israel by
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Separately, Netanyahu on Saturday sent
his condolences to the Office of the Egyptian President about the bus and train
accident in central Egypt in which at least 49 children were
Egypt’s behind-the-scenes work has taken place against a backdrop
of harsh rhetoric against Israel.
Morsi denounced Israel’s attacks on the
Gaza Strip as “a blatant aggression against humanity” and said Cairo “would not
leave Gaza on its own,” the state news agency MENA reported.
the comments in a speech following Friday prayers in a mosque in central Cairo,
MENA said. His prime minister, Hisham Kandil, visited the Gaza Strip on
“Cairo will not leave Gaza on its own... Egypt today is not the
Egypt of yesterday, and Arabs today are not the Arabs of yesterday,” Morsi
Ashton, Merkel voice support for Israel
Ashton and Merkel both issued strong statements in support of
Israel’s right to defend itself on Friday.
“The rocket attacks by Hamas
and other factions in Gaza, which began this current crisis, are totally
unacceptable for any government and must stop,” Ashton said.
the right to protect its population from these kind of attacks. I urge Israel to
ensure that its response is proportionate,” she said. “I am deeply concerned at
the escalating violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip and deplore the loss of
civilian lives on both sides.”
Ashton added that she had spoken with
leaders in the region, including Netanyahu, UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon and
the office of Morsi, as to how best to de-escalate the situation.
discussions, I made the point that we must move forward in finding a solution to
the Middle East conflict so that millions of people in the region can finally
live in peace and security,” she said.
A German government spokesman said
on Friday that Merkel is “very worried” about an escalation of violence in the
Middle East and calls on Hamas “to immediately stop shooting rockets from Gaza
“Hamas in Gaza is responsible for the outbreak of
violence,” spokesman Georg Streiter told a news conference.
“There is no
justification for the shooting of rockets at Israel, which has led to massive
suffering of the civilian population.
“The chancellor urges those
responsible in the Gaza Strip to immediately stop firing on Israel. At the same
time she calls on the Egyptian government to use its influence on Hamas to limit
the violence and bring it to an end,” he said.
Streiter said the Israeli
government had the “right and obligation” to protect its citizens.
Secretary-General’s Office appealed to Israel and Hamas to stop the “dangerous
escalation and restore calm.”
“Rocket attacks are unacceptable and must
stop at once.
Israel must exercise maximum restraint,” the office
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Reuters contributed to this report.