Gaza tensions high ahead of Putin visit

Gaza tensions high ahead of Putin visit

Gaza tensions high ahead of Putin visit

Islamic Jihad militants hold their weapons during the funeral of their comrade Mohammed Shbat in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. REUTERS photo

Gaza’s Hamas rulers said they were ready for a fresh bid to rein in cross-border fighting with Israel, after medics said three Palestinians were killed in air raids on June 23, as Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to start a rare visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories today.

Hamas and “the Palestinian resistance factions will respect the truce as long as the [forces] of the occupation do the same, and that’s what we told our Egyptian brothers who demanded that we cease fire,” a Hamas leader, Ayman Taha, told Agence France-Presse. “The Egyptians have demanded that the [forces] of the occupation stop their aggression and have informed us that they are prepared to do so,” he added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said troops had responded “forcefully” to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and could boost their response if a fragile truce announced on June 23 failed to hold. “We told them that we shall respond to calm with calm; if the occupier stops [its attacks], there will be no further retaliation by the resistance factions.” An army spokeswoman said that by the evening of June 23, 24 rockets had slammed into southern Israel from Gaza during the day, with 10 brought down by Iron Dome. Others were reported to have fallen at sea or inside the Gaza Strip itself.

Putin to discuss Arab Spring

As tension escalates, Putin is starting his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Putin will unveil a World War II memorial in the Israeli city of Netanya, followed by talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the opening of a Russian cultural center in Bethlehem in the central West Bank tomorrow, the Kremlin said.

Also tomorrow, Putin will visit Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II and the opening of a guesthouse for Russia’s Christian pilgrims at a Jordan Valley site where many Christians believe Jesus was baptized. King Abdullah II’s office said the two leaders would also discuss Arab  uprisings and Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

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