Rice: Violence will hurt Palestinians

UN chief: Halt rocket attacks; Egyptian official: Don't let Gaza situation escalate; Ben-Eliezer: IDF ready.

Palestinian gunmen gaza 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
Palestinian gunmen gaza 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday called on Hamas in Gaza not to attack Israel, and warned that acts of violence would not help the Palestinian cause. "I sincerely hope that there will not be a resumption of the violence because that is not going to help the people of Gaza, it is not going to help the Palestinians, it is not going to help the Palestinian cause," she said. Rice's comments came at the end of the truce agreement between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza, which lasted six months. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his appeal to extend the truce and immediately halt rocket attacks against Israel and all acts of violence, UN deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said at the UN headquarters in New York. "A major escalation of violence would have grave consequences for the protection of civilians in Israel and Gaza, the welfare of the Gazan civilian population, and the sustainability of political efforts," Okabe said. Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hussam Zakkai echoed similar statements on Friday. Zakkai called on Israel and the Palestinians not to let the situation in the Gaza Strip deteriorate into full-blown conflict, as it would negatively affect civilians there. "It's up to Israel to be flexible about [opening Gaza] border crossings," he said. "It's up to the Palestinian factions not to escalate their operations, so Gazans won't have to pay the price of confrontations." The spokesperson said that until the last minute, Egypt, which had brokered the truce agreement, had hoped that Israel and the Palestinians would announce their willingness to extend the cease-fire agreement. "At this point, no one has requested that we extend the truce," he said, adding that Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005 had not freed Gaza from occupation. However, Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned Palestinian factions the IDF was in its best form ever to respond to any provocation. "There's a limit to what Israel can absorb, and at the moment it's like we're standing with a stopwatch in hand," he said. "The IDF has never been in a greater state of readiness, and in the case of an attack, it will know how to operate in the best way." Speaking at a Tel Aviv conference, Ben-Elizer warned "If there's no calm in Israel, there won't be calm in Gaza either." "Israel won't accept a 'half-truce,'" he added.