20 Nov 2012

Diplomatic efforts intensify over Gaza

9:57 pm on 20 November 2012

Efforts to reach a diplomatic solution in the crisis between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas are gaining momentum.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has left the East Asia Summit in Cambodia for Israel and will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on her arrival, Reuters reports.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is due to meet Mr Netanyahu in the next few hours.

Negotiators from the two sides are also in Cairo for continuing on a ceasefire plan proposed by Egypt. Israeli leaders met late into the night to discuss the Egyptian truce proposal.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council has been debating a statement calling on both parties to stop attacks and address humanitarian needs in Gaza, the BBC reports.

US President Barack Obama has also spoken to Mr Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi to urge an end to the fighting.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has intervened, calling Israel a terrorist state that massacres innocent children.

Palestinian toll rising

Medical staff say at least 110 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli bombardment of Gaza started a week ago. Three Israelis have been killed by rockets fired by Palestinian militants.

On Monday, among those killed was a commander of the Islamic Jihad militant group who died in an air strike on a Gaza City tower block housing media organisations. A couple and their two small children were also killed in northern Gaza.

The Israeli army says 67 rockets fired from Gaza landed in Israel during the day.

Israeli troops are massed along the border, raising fears of a ground offensive similar to that of 2008-09.

However, Israeli officials are quoted as saying that any possible ground invasion of Gaza has been put on hold while the ceasefire talks continue.

Overnight, air raid sirens sounded in parts of southern Israel including Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat and Sderot. Some rocket and mortar fire was heard but no casualties were reported, Israel Radio said.

BBC correspondents in Gaza say it was a relatively quiet night, although the Israeli military says it carried out about 100 strikes mainly on smuggling tunnels and underground rocket-launching facilities.

Militants in Gaza fired only a handful of rockets in return, some of which were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defence system, Israeli officials say.