Egypt sees Gaza conflict ending later today

Netanyahu says he prefers a diplomatic solution

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi speaking 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi speaking 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CAIRO - Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said on Tuesday that "Israeli aggression" against Gaza would end later in the day, the Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.
"President Mohamed Morsi announced that the farce of Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip will end on Tuesday," MENA said, quoting public remarks made by the country's head of state after the funeral of his sister.
"The efforts to conclude a truce between the Palestinian and Israeli sides will produce positive results in the next few hours," he was quoted as saying. Egypt has been trying to mediate a truce to end the conflict.The MENA story did not provide a direct quote.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil told Reuters on Monday a ceasefire could be close.
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday that if cease-fire efforts failed he would not hesitate to take further military action against Gaza.
“I prefer a diplomatic solution. I hope that we can get one, but if not, we have every right to defend ourselves,” he said during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Israel has held off from sending ground forces into Gaza to give diplomacy time to work.
The two men discussed the ongoing cease-fire efforts in Cairo, with the help of Morsi and the backing of US President Barack Obama. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton departed for Israel on Tuesday, and was expected to arrive in the evening. Clinton will meet with Netanyahu on Wednesday.
White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters that the message of Clinton's trip will be that it is in nobody's interest for there to be an escalation of military conflict in Gaza. He added that Hamas must end rocket attacks into Israel and that Egypt can be a partner in helping to resolve the conflict in Gaza.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon landed in Israel from Cairo, where he plans to meet later this afternoon with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.
He was greeted by Environment Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) who told him, "You have to understand that the government of Israel can't afford to compromise on any thing less than 100 percent when it comes to the security of its citizens. We are determined to do what ever it takes to achieve this [security]," he said.
Erdan added, that he was saying this as someone who had been in Sderot and the South and seen the suffering of its citizens.
Earlier, Ban called for an immediate cease-fire and said an Israeli ground operation in the Palestinian enclave would be a "dangerous escalation" that must be avoided.
"Immediate steps are needed by all to avoid a further escalation, including a ground operation which will only result in further tragedy," he said, before adding that Israel has "legitimate security concerns."
Ban spoke at a news conference in Cairo after talks with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby.
Westerwelle arrived in Israel Monday night after a meeting with the European Union Foreign Affairs Council, which also backed the cease-fire efforts.
Germany has a constructive role to play in ending the conflict and achieving a long term arrangement that stop the flow of “terror weapons” into the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu said.
“As you know, we seek a diplomatic unwinding to this, through the discussions of cease-fire. But is the firing continues we will have to take broader action, and we won’t hesitate to do so,” said Netanyahu.
Westerwelle pledged his country’s support both to Israel’s right to defend itself and its basic demand that Hamas stop firing missiles.
“There is one key condition for everything else, and that is the stop of the missile attacks against Israel,” Westerwelle said. “This is a clear message, not only of the German Government but this is also the message what the European Foreign Minister yesterday sent out,” 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,” Westerwelle said.
In a meeting with President Shimon Peres in the President's Residence on Tuesday, Westerwelle confirmed his frequently voiced stance that Israel has the right to defend herself against rocket attacks from Gaza.
In welcoming Westerwelle, Peres said how much Israel appreciates Germany's efforts "to bring an end to an unacceptable attack on civilian life and to renew hope for peace in the Middle East."
Peres denied that there was any siege against Gaza other than that of arms and aggressive weapons such as missiles smuggled from Iran. Food, building materials and other products can pass through freely, he said.
On Monday night, Westerwelle met with Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, before heading to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.