Hagel to Ya'alon: Gaza cease-fire needed to end fighting, disarm Hamas

US secretary of defense speaks with his Israeli counterpart, expresses concern over rising death toll on both sides of conflict; Pentagon chief calls for humanitarian cease-fire to lead to permanent truce.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Jeddah May 14, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Jeddah May 14, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon spoke on Wednesday with his American counterpart Chuck Hagel, who called for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza that would lead to a permanent end in fighting along with the disarmament of Hamas.
Hagel's call came amid US concern over the rising number of deaths on both sides of the conflict, said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
The US secretary of defense stressed that any comprehensive resolution to the over three-week conflagration would need to result in the demilitarization of Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.
Hagel also reiterated Washington's stance in support of Israel's right to defend itself from attempts to harm its citizens. Ya'alon in turn thanked Hagel for his expression of support for Israeli defense, citing especially US contributions for the development of the Iron Dome rocket defense system.
Separately, the Pentagon said it had allowed Israel to stock up on grenades and mortar rounds from a US munitions store located in Israel as part of bilateral emergency preparedness arrangement.
The security cabinet on Wednesday approved continuing Israel's campaign launched on July 8 in response to a surge of rocket attacks by Gaza's dominant Hamas Islamists. But Israel also sent a delegation to Egypt, which has been trying, with Washington's blessing, to broker a ceasefire.
Israel briefly halted its strikes in Gaza after accepting an Egyptian truce proposal on July 15, but resumed attacks the next day as terrorists in Gaza pounded Israel with fresh salvos of rockets.
Reuters contributed to this report.