Gaza truce delayed as Israel fails to respond to proposals
The leader of Hamas, Ezzat al-Rishq, said that the movement has not yet received any response to the proposals put before the Israeli authorities, and that it might take another day to reach a deal.
"The truce is now held up because we are waiting for the Israeli side to respond,” Rishq told Reuters. "We … must wait until tomorrow."
Israel's negotiation team has reportedly rejected a draft ceasefire, delaying the truce announcement indefinitely, the Times of Israel reports, citing local media.
Earlier, Arabic news sources cited Hamas official Ayman Taha as saying an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was set to be declared in Gaza at 19:00 GMT, and would go into effect at 22:00 GMT. Israel said that a ceasefire deal has yet to be finalized.
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has arrived in Tel Aviv and to meet with the Israeli prime minister. She is not expected though to meet with Hamas leaders.
“America's commitment to Israel’s security is rock-solid and unwavering,” Clinton told the press before the closed-door meeting with Netanyahu. “We appreciate President Morsi's personal leadership and Egypt's efforts thus far,” she added.
A ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas is yet to be cemented, and the "ball is still in play", Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told CNN on Tuesday. "Until you're there, you're not there," he said. A senior Hamas official later told the network that “a calming down” would be announced at 19:00 GMT which would limit the violence, if not bring about an official truce.
Their comments conflict with a previous statement by Hamas official Ayman Taha, who claimed that that an Egyptian-brokered truce had been finalized. An Egyptian source close to the negotiations confirmed that "up to this point there is no final decision," Sky News cites him as saying.
However, further clouding the nature of the uncertain ceasefire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly agreed to a cessation of hostilities after being significantly pressured from Washington, Israel’s Channel 10 news reports government sources as saying.
Hamas’ political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal and his negotiators met with Egypt’s intelligence chief Raafat Shehata in Cairo in an effort to hammer out the final details of the cease-fire agreement on Tuesday.
Israel’s delegates were scheduled to return to Cairo to present Israel’s response to demands being made by Hamas. Senior Egyptian officials told Haaretz that a solution was near, but more flexibility was needed from the Israeli side.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi announced earlier in the day that the “farce” of Israeli aggression would end on Tuesday.
“The efforts to reach a ceasefire between the Palestinians and Israelis will produce positive results within a few hours," state news agency Mena cited him as saying.
Egypt has played an integral part in ongoing efforts to bring about a cessation of hostilities between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip.
The conflicting reports of a ceasefire deal come amidst international efforts to prevent a further escalation of violence in the region.
UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon arrived in Jerusalem on Tuesday to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a two-day stopover in Cairo. Netanyahu had early said Israel would be a “willing partner” in cease-fire. Ki-moon is also scheduled to hold talks with Palestinian officials in Ramallah – in the West Bank.
Since the US has labeled Hamas a terrorist organization, Clinton is prohibited from engaging in direct contact with the movement’s officials. Washington has therefore been forced to rely on Egypt, Turkey and Qatar to act as go-betweens with the Hamas leadership in Gaza.
US President Barack Obama dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Middle East on the same day to aid in the peace efforts. Clinton is set to meet with the Israeli PM in Jerusalem, Palestinian officials in Ramallah and Egyptian leaders in Cairo.
Obama, who is returning from a diplomatic tour in Asia, has personally spoken to Morsi three times in the last 24 hours. He commended the Egyptian president’s efforts to ease hostilities between the two sides.
On Monday Netanyahu reportedly pushed back an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) ground invasion of Gaza by 24-hours in light of his scheduled meeting with Ki-Moon.
Fears that an imminent ground operation was being prepared were stoked after the IDF dropped flyers warning Gaza residents to evacuate “immediately” to Gaza City’s center. The IDF claims the Hamas interior ministry spokesman had urged his listeners to ignore the warnings.
After speaking with ki-Moon, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that any ground incursion into Gaza would not be limited as it was during the 2008-2009 Gaza War.
"This would not be "Operation Cast Lead 2," but "Operation Defensive Shield 2," The Jerusalem Post cites Liberman as saying.
Despite the potential breakthrough, the violence showed no signs of abating after at least six Palestinians were killed in an airstrike that hit two cars, bringing Tuesday’s death toll to 13, RT’s Paula Slier reports. The Israeli military has continued to bombard positions in Northern Gaza, where most of the militants rocket attacks have been initiated.
At least 125 people have been killed in Gaza, including around 27 children, and four Israelis have also died since Israel began Operation Pillar of Defense with the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari on Wednesday.