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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) – U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and stressed the need for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire in the raging Gaza conflict.

Both the Israelis and Hamas exchanged strike and counter-strike on day 20 of the war, as world leaders pushed for an elusive ceasefire.

In a statement, the White House said Obama “made clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement” brokered by Egypt.

Obama “reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself” and stressed the need to “ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza,” while reiterating “serious and growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives,” the statement read.

Israeli media meanwhile said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet was holding a meeting extending from Sunday evening into the early hours of Monday to discuss the next steps in Gaza.

Earlier, fighting renewed apace, as Israel pounded Gaza with aerial, naval and artillery bombardments after a night of rocket fire from Hamas.

The two sides had observed a 12-hour humanitarian pause on Saturday, giving Gaza medics a chance to pull bodies from rubble they had not been able to reach under fire.

But Hamas rocket fire prompted Israel to abandon an extension of that truce Sunday, and subsequent Hamas calls for another ceasefire were ignored by both sides, as world leaders pushed for a permanent cessation of hostilities.

Neither side has agreed to the truce demands of the other, in a conflict that has killed more than 1,030 Palestinians, 43 Israeli soldiers and three civilians inside Israel.

A controversial incident on Thursday when a UN school acting as a shelter was shelled, killing 15 people, drew fierce condemnation from Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

The Israeli army confirmed on Sunday it had hit the school, but said it was a “single errant mortar” round, denying that people were killed “as a result of (army) operational activity”.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif engaged in a round of telephone diplomacy late Sunday to rally support and humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza.

He spoke with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and regional leaders, stressing that the priority was to get food and medical aid into areas worst hit by Israel’s military offensive, Iran’s official IRNA news agency said.

Meanwhile Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry was still working for Israel and Hamas to agree to further halts in the bloodshed ahead of hoped for Egypt-led peace talks, a U.S. official said.

Israel rejected a Kerry-proposed ceasefire earlier in the week, and Hamas has resisted truce efforts by Cairo, which has made an enemy of the Palestinian Islamist group that is allied to the Muslim Brotherhood that Egypt has designated a “terrorist” organization.

Israel insists that it will continue its mission to destroy Hamas tunnels used to launch attacks on the Jewish state, and Hamas wants a lifting of the crippling Gaza blockade that has been in place for eight years.

Although Hamas said its militants would halt their fire from 1100 GMT Sunday in response to a request from the United Nations, there was no response from Israel.

At least 22 rockets from Gaza hit Israel after the reported truce went into effect, an army spokeswoman told AFP.

“They are violating their own ceasefire,” Netanyahu told the CNN news network.

In a separate interview with CBS, he said Israel would not allow “a ruthless terror organisation… to decide when it’s convenient for them to stop for a moment, rearm, and continue firing”.

New Israeli attacks on Sunday killed 11 people across the territory, including an elderly Christian woman, medics said, raising the Palestinian toll on day 20 of Israel’s devastating military campaign to 1,031.

The violence looked set to continue ahead of the Muslim Eid festival starting on Monday, ending the month-long fast of Ramadan.

UN chief Ban urged, “in the strongest terms, both the Israelis and Palestinians to extend, for an additional 24 hours, the humanitarian ceasefire that was in effect and mostly observed until early this morning (Sunday),” a statement from his office said.

In Rome, Pope Francis pleaded for an end to the bloodshed which has killed mostly civilians, around a quarter of them children.

“Stop, please stop! I beg you with all my heart,” he said in the weekly Angelus prayer.

Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said his group could not coexist with Israel as long as it occupied Palestinian land.

“We are not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews,” he said in remarks broadcast Sunday. “We fight the occupiers.”

“I’m ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians and the Arabs and non-Arabs,” he said. “However, I do not coexist with the occupiers.”

Rights groups say the vast majority, some 80 percent of Palestinians killed, have been civilians.

AFP Photo/Marco Longari

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  • Grannysmovin

    This is a paragraph from an article I read and found it very disturbing, is this Jew calling for a ethnic cleansing:
    “In an Arutz Sheva op-ed, Moshe Feiglin, deputy speaker of
    Israel’s Knesset (parliament) and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin
    Netanyahu’s Likud party, outlines his horrifying “solution in Gaza.”
    Feiglin, who is banned from entering Britain for “seeking to provoke terrorist acts,” calls for an all-out attack on Gaza with “no consideration for ‘human shields’ or ‘environmental damage.'” He also advocates a “total siege” on Gaza, as if the current siege isn’t total nor devastating enough in its impact on the 1.8 million residents of the world’s largest open-air prison.”

    • A_Real_Einstein

      Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said his group could not coexist with Israel as long as it occupied Palestinian land. This leader also said that Palestine could not exist with Israel even if they ended their occupation. Clearly Hamas is not seeking a peaceful solution. Until Hamas is removed or recognizes Israel’s right to exist – do not expect Israel to negotiate. Israel will continue to act in self defense and protect its citizens against thousands of rockets being shot at their innocent civilians. Hamas can stop their aggression, agree to a two state solution and stop putting its citizens at risk any time it wants to. Israel and the West would like peace, Hamas and Iran do not. Our patience has run out with these terrorists.

      • Grannysmovin

        I agree Israel has to defend against Hamas. Later in the article:
        “Agreeing, IDF Major Gilad Sharon, son of Israeli war hero
        and “man of peace” Ariel Sharon, who once upon a time commanded a unit that, according to Time magazine, “shot every man, woman and child they could find” in multiple civilian massacres in his and Israel’s youth, proposed the total destruction of Gaza and everyone in it. “Flatten all of Gaza,” urged Sharon, just like “Hiroshima.”
        I don’t agree with the genocide mentality of either of these individuals and the leaders of Israel need to speak out and condemn this type of hostility against people who are not with or support Hamas.

        • A_Real_Einstein

          Until Hamas is either removed from the situation or agrees to a diplomatic solution including recognizing Israel as a free nation- Gaza will be flattened. Elections have consequences. The Palestinians have made their choice. Now they pay the price. Israel has no other alternative. Firing thoasands of rockets at Isreali cities is an act of war.It is not acceptable and will be stopped. If Hamas wants to use women and children as human shields then there is not much Israel can do to stop this terrorism but to detsroy the terrorists.It is not very complicated and America will always stand with Israel whio act in self defense over jihadists.

          • Grannysmovin

            We will have to agree on some things and disagree on some things.

          • A_Real_Einstein

            But I still do not understand how you would expect Israel to respond to the current set of circumstances. What do you propose?

          • Grannysmovin

            Both sides need to agree and keep a cease fire and allow time to do honest discussions for a 2 state solution. I understand the distrust for Hamas but any official of Israel talking about genocide of innocent men, women and children is not acceptable. Both sides need to be ready to negotiate in good faith and acknowledge that compromise is a must. I would like to see a 2 state solution.

          • A_Real_Einstein

            Hamas refuses to honor a ceasefire and has stated that given the opportunity they will destroy Israel no matter what. Israel actually needs a two sate solution for its survival as a predomintately jewish country since it is not a theocracy and allows all people from religous faiths to become citizens. Did you know that there are already over a million arab citizens of Isreal? For this reason Israel is on record as preferring a two state solution. Hamas and its supporters have no interest in a world where Israelis or Jews are alive. Isreal wants a two state solution. What makes you think they do not? Do you have another proposal?

          • Grannysmovin

            No I don’t have another solution and it seems that your solution is ?????. Please if you support genocide don’t bother to respond.

          • A_Real_Einstein

            My solution is remove Hamas and it supporters from the equation and determine whether or not the citizens of Palestine would agree to a two state solution where both countries can live peacefully. Countries like Jordan and Egypt have demonstrated that they can exist and thrive with Israel in the region. Why not Palestine? Neither I or the massive majority of Israelis have an issue with the people of Palestine. It is the Palestinian leadership that needs to promote peace. The Palestinian people should have their own nation but their leadership is preventing it. By the way, this is the exact same policy and wishes of our current administration. We cannot negotiate with terrorists who are causing death to its own civilians in an attempt to score political points. I do not believe in killing anyone. I do believe in self defense. I do not believe in this scenerio that Israel has any other viable options and apperently neither do you.

    • Dominick Vila

      It is, indeed, disturbing to hear a Jewish person propose “solutions” that are identical to what one of the biggest monsters in the history of mankind applied against the Jewish people. I wonder if he ever noticed the similarity between the Gaza Strip and the Warsaw ghetto. Considering the persecution the Jewish people have endured throughout their history, I simply cannot understand their reluctance to solve the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. The “right to exist” the “right to defend themselves”, and all the other excuses used to keep the status quo ignore that Israel has one of the most formidable military forces and intelligence agencies in the world. It also ignores Israel’s prosperity, their high standard of living, and the unconditional support they get from the USA.

      • A_Real_Einstein

        The “right to exist” is an excuse? Israel has been surrounded by hostile enemies and has only acted in self defense since 1948. Isreal wants peace- Hamas and Iran do not. How do you solve an impasse with terrorist backed government who openly admits they will never rest until Israel has been destroyed and all the jews are dead? Who are you to bash Isreal for its free eneterprise system, its democracy and its ability to defend itself. Isreal is not trying to conquer anybody. They are not the aggressors. You are wrong this time, Dom.

        • Dominick Vila

          With the exception of radical Islam, nobody questions Israel’s right to exist. In fact, nobody questions their right to retaliate against those responsible for the murder of 3 Israeli teenagers. What is being questioned is the scope of the retaliation, which include a level of destruction and a number of casualties, mostly civilians, that is disproportionate with the crime that started the latest crisis and what seems like a never ending tragedy.

          • A_Real_Einstein

            How do you propose that Israel removes the tunnels and weaponry that is being used against them? How much more can Isreal do to limit civilian deaths when they they telegraph where they are going to strike and fire warning shots. How do you limit civilian deaths when your enemy uses those civilians as human shields and sets up their headquarters and fires their rockets from schools, day care centers and mosques?
            What is Israel suppoosed to do? Eat hundreds of rockets a day, have their citizens live in bomb shelters and watch their economy get destroyed? What is the approriate response to an enemy who wants to completely destroy your country and its citizens and refuses to discuss a ceasefire? What should the scope of the retaliation be when the enemy refuses to stop? I eagerly await your response.

          • A_Real_Einstein

            This military action by Israel is not a response to the murder of three teenagers. It is a response to hundreds and now thousands of rockets being shot at Israeli citizens. It is response to an entity who has successfully built tunnels which will be used by suicide bombers and Hamas militants to kill and kidnap innocent people. I suppose you would feel better about this if more Israelis were being killed? Exactly how many Isreali cituizens should be killed before Israel should take the steps necessary to stop the rockets?

      • A_Real_Einstein

        Your post is disturbing. Comparing the Gaza Strip to the Warsaw Ghetto is a clear demonstation of your ignorance of this topic and makes me wonder if you are anti semitic. The people in the Warsaw Ghetto did not elect a government who’s primary intent was to destroy Israel and all of the Jews. The people in the Warsaw Ghetto did not shoot thousands of missles at civilians. The people in the Warsaw Ghetto did not provoke and invite the aggression that befell upon them. Israel has shown incredible restraint for 60 years against an enemy that continues to provoke and threaten them. If Israel would lift the blockade they would have even more bombs and tunnels to deal with. Clearly that would be self destructive. Enough is enough!

  • howa4x

    It is very hard for this conflict to subside because the political wing of Hamas is in Qatar and the military wing is in Gaza. The military wing is also broken down in to sub wings and clans that have autonomy and can fire rockets whenever they feel the need to express anger. The other objective of Hamas is to try to goad the Israeli’s into the kind of destruction they are doing to bring down international pressure on Netanyahu. This is the part that is not working well for them. International condemnation is not coming down hard on Israel as long as Hamas rocket fire and tunnel raids continue. Then the issue becomes Israel’s right to defend itself. This is why the powers in the Arab world are not as vocal against Israel as usual. It is also the underlying issue of why cease fires break down. The political wing of Hamas sensing the international feeling of Israel’s right of self defense, negotiates them, and the military wing in Gaza keeps fighting. Add to this the desire of the military wing to kill Israeli’s, any number is sufficient, and as long as they are dying they will continue the fight.
    The answer lies in the partial lifting of the blockade, but as long as the military wing keeps firing rockets Israel is afraid of fighters being smuggled in by merchants, and a return to suicide bombers. Let’s not forget that Israel walked out of the occupation of Gaza, left green houses intact and the crossings were open. Hamas destroyed the green houses and started the suicide bombings.
    As long as this mistrust rules the politics the people of Gaza will suffer the unspeakable horror of being caught in the middle.

    • A_Real_Einstein

      Well said.
      How do you have a partial lifting of the blockade and still provide Israel the security of knowing the war making materials are not coming through?
      How do you get Hamas to the table?