Islamic world enters Eid with mounting Gaza toll
JERUSALEM / GAZA CITY
AP PhotoEid al-Fitr is beginning in the Gaza Strip, but residents are from a celebratory mood amid a mounting death toll exceeding 1,050 and a slim chance of a durable cease-fire with Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday dismissed the latest cease-fire proposal to end the assault on Gaza, accusing Hamas of violating a truce that it had itself called and vowed that operations would continue.
On July 26, Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoğlu met with his counterparts in Paris to discuss a possible truce, but it failed to produce any tangible result as protest against Israeli strikes continue in world capitals. Davutoğlu has claimed a sustainable cease-fire is impossible to achieve as long as the reality of Hamas is ignored at the negotiating table.
“Disregarding Hamas, excluding them from peace processes, ignoring the will of the people of Gaza and looking upon the cease-fire negotiations as a process between Israel and Egypt are the primary reasons why the truce has arrived late,” Davutoğlu told the state-run TRT television channel late July 26.
Netanyahu said Hamas was violating its own cease-fire. “Under these circumstances, Israel will do what it must do to defend its people,” Netanyahu told CNN.
Earlier, Hamas agreed to halt firing from 2 p.m. in response to a request from the United Nations. However, as 2 p.m. came and went, the sound of heavy Israeli shelling could be heard within Gaza and sirens sounded in Israeli communities near the border area, suggesting militants had fired missiles at them.
Some 1,050 Palestinians, mainly civilians and including many children, have been killed in the 20-day conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. Israel says 43 of its soldiers have died, along with three civilians.
Israel has endorsed a cease-fire plan promoted by Egypt that has not been accepted by Hamas, but Netanyahu was dismissive about yesterday’s latest U.N. truce call. Netanyahu told CNN that Israeli forces would continue operations to attempt to dismantle Hamas’ cross-border tunnel network and to destroy its stocks of rockets.
“I’m not going to talk about specific military operations. Israel is doing what any other country would do and the U.S. would do if any percent of your country were under fire and you have 60 or 90 seconds to get to a bomb shelter,” Netanyahu said.
“I would say we want to stop firing rockets for sure. We want to dismantle the tunnel, the terror tunnel network we uncovered. I don’t know if we’ll have 100 percent success,” he said. “Our soldiers are dealing with it now.”
Separately, Israeli daily Haaretz quoted an unnamed senior official as saying Israel had rejected the “U.N. and Hamas proposal for a humanitarian pause in fighting in the Gaza Strip.”
This came after a hopeful statement from Davutoğlu, who said he spoke with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and received confirmation that the truce would start at 2 p.m. yesterday.
Netanyahu also insisted Israel was not deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians, accusing Hamas of provoking conflict in residential areas, and said the long-term goal was to prevent attacks on Israel. “I hope we achieve a sustainable quiet that will enable us to address the issue of demilitarizing Gaza,” he told CBS.
Demonstrations showing solidarity with Palestinians took place in many countries over the weekend including the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, France, Austria, Nigeria and Algeria.
Pope Francis also waded into deadly conflict and made an emotional plea for peace in an impromptu addition to comments delivered at his weekly Angelus address in Saint Peter’s Square. As the Argentine-born pontiff wrapped up his regular address to the faithful, he spoke of the upcoming centenary of the outbreak of World War I and said his thoughts were on the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine in particular.
With his voice appearing to crack with emotion, the pope broke off from his scripted remarks to make a direct appeal for fighting to end.
“Please stop! I ask you with all my heart, it’s time to stop. Stop, please!” While he made no direct reference to the situation in the Gaza Strip, the comments came after a humanitarian truce broke down with the resumption of fighting.