Unnamed diplomat in Cairo for truce negotiations, as Israel continues preparations for a possible ground offensive
The Guardian, By Julian Borger and Harriet Sherwood, November 18
Jerusalem – An Israeli envoy has arrived in Egypt for possible negotiations on a ceasefire as the barrage on Gaza intensified and the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, threatened to “significantly expand” military operations.
Amid signs of Israeli preparations for an invasion, the US and UK signalled that although they accepted that strikes against Gaza had been justified because of rockets fired by militants inside the Palestinian enclave, their support would lessen if Israel sent in troops and tanks.
“Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory,” Barack Obama said at the start of a three-nation tour in Asia. “Let’s understand what the precipitating event here was … that was an ever escalating number of missiles that were landing not just in Israeli territory but in areas that are populated.
“There is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.” The US president said it would be preferable if the Israeli operation against rocket launchers in Gaza could be accomplished without “a ramping-up of military activity”.
Obama added: “It’s not just preferable for the people of Gaza. It’s also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they’re much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded.”
Ground Invasion of Gaza Strip Would Damage Israel, Hague Says
Bloomberg Businessweek, By Andrew Atkinson, November 18
Israel risks losing international support if it mounts a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip to stop rocket attacks from Hamas militants, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
A ground incursion would make it harder to limit civilian casualties and prolong the current conflict, Hague told Sky News television today.
He said he and Prime Minister David Cameron “have both stressed to our Israeli counterparts that a ground invasion of Gaza would lose Israel a lot of the international support and sympathy they have in this situation.”
Israel said today it was prepared to “significantly widen” its assault on the Gaza Strip as rocket attacks on its cities continued for a fifth day. Regional leaders are racing to broker an accord to end a conflict that has killed 52 Palestinians and three Israelis.
Hamas links truce to end of Gaza border blockade
AP, November 18
Gaza’s Hamas rulers are aiming high in the conditions they place on stopping rocket fire into Israel in indirect cease-fire talks launched this weekend. Emboldened by Arab support and confident in their arsenal, the Islamists say calm can only come if Israel opens the gates of the tiny, closed-off territory.
The question is how far Hamas will go to reach that long-sought goal, which Israel opposes out of fear of an influx of weapons to Gaza militants.
For now, public opinion in Gaza appears to support continued rocket attacks on Israel. However, Israeli aircraft have already struck hundreds of Hamas-linked targets in Gaza and Israel is threatening to escalate its military offensive. On Sunday, a new tactic of bombing the homes of Hamas operatives claimed the lives of at least nine children.
The indirect contacts between Israel and Hamas began Sunday, the fifth day of Israel’s massive bombing campaign meant to halt more than a decade of intermittent Gaza rocket attacks on Israel.
An Israeli envoy was whisked from the tarmac at Cairo’s international airport to talks with senior Egyptian security officials. The top Hamas leader in exile Khaled Mashaal held talks with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who also spoke by phone with the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.
Palestinians: Israel demands 15-year lull, Morsi guarantee
According to reports in Cairo, Israel put forward six key demands for ceasefire, threatened ground offensive in Gaza if no response within 48 to 72 hours
YNet News, By Elior Levy, November 19
Some Hamas figures have declared that the ceasefire negotiations have failed, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the cessation of rocket fire on Israel is a prerequisite for starting talks, but Palestinian sources who are familiar with Cairo’s efforts to broker a truce said it was too soon to announce that the talks have collapsed.
On Sunday senior Fatah official Nabil Sha’ath arrived in the Egyptian capital and met with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal. Sha’ath said Mashaal informed him that the negotiations have entered a serious stage but expressed doubt that an agreement would be reached anytime soon due to Israel’s demands and its refusal to accept demands put forward by Hamas and the other Palestinian terror organizations.
According to reports in Cairo, these are the conditions for a ceasefire set forth by Israel:
- A lull for a period of more than 15 years.
- An immediate cessation of arms smuggling and the transfer of weapons to Gaza.
- Cessation of rocket fire on the part of all armed Palestinian factions and an end to attacks on soldiers near the Gaza border.
- Israel has the right to hunt down terrorists in the event of an attack or if it obtains information on an imminent attack.
- The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt will remain open, but the crossings on the Gaza-Israel border will remain closed.
- Egypt’s politicians, headed by President Mohammed Morsi, will be the guarantors of any ceasefire agreement. Meaning, the agreement will be backed by Egypt’s political echelon rather than by its security establishment.
This list of demands has not been confirmed by any other source.