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Middle East

Israel-Gaza conflict: Israel rejects Kerry ceasefire as it tries to crush Hamas

Even as the cabinet met, Hamas fired rockets at the southern city of Ashdod and Israeli troops continued their ground operation in Gaza

With its army asking for more time to deal further blows to Hamas, the Israeli government’s security cabinet rejected US Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Israeli media reported on Friday night that the security cabinet, comprised of senior government ministers, unanimously rejected the truce proposal in its current form, mainly because it did not want to stop the operation to destroy Hamas tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border before it had been completed.

And it was also reported that the Israeli defence minister Moshe Yaalon had said his armed forces may soon significantly broaden its ground operation in the Gaza Strip.

In a statement issued by his office, he was quoted as telling troops in the field that “you need to be ready for the possibility that very soon we will instruct the military to significantly broaden the ground operation in Gaza”.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was, however, said to have told Mr Kerry that Israel would begin a 12-hour pause hostilities starting at 7 am Israeli time on Saturday as a goodwill gesture.


Mr Kerry insisted: "We don't yet have that final framework, but none of us are stopping."

Speaking in Cairo alongside the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday, Mr Kerry insisted that there was a general agreement on the "concept" of a truce, but that both sides had concerns over details of carrying it out.

"Gaps have been significantly narrowed," he said. "It can be achieved, if we work through some of the issues that are important for the parties."

The possibility of a truce, however, did not stop the fighting on Friday.

As Israel’s security cabinet met, Hamas fired rockets at the southern city of Ashdod and Israeli troops continued their ground operation in Gaza.

The cabinet meeting’s start was delayed for more than two hours, apparently because the ministers wanted to know what Hamas’s response was to the US proposal.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, declined to give details of the ceasefire proposal. But Haaretz reported that it stipulates a temporary ceasefire for a week, staring on Sunday, during which the army will not completely leave Gaza and will continue its anti-tunnel operations.

However, Arab officials, quoted by the Times of Israel website, said that the army would have to cease the anti-tunnel operations with the start of the ceasefire.

Haaretz said that during the ceasefire, negotiations between Israel and Hamas –with Egypt serving as an intermediary – would start with the aim of reaching an “ongoing and stable’’ arrangement between the two sides.

It added that the US, the UN, and the EU would give guarantees to the two sides that the talks would cover, as Israel demands, a demilitarisation of the Strip; and, as Hamas is demanding, the lifting of Israeli and Egyptian border restrictions.

General Sami Tourjeman, in charge of the southern command, said Israel was winning the war against Hamas but that additional time would enable the army to score more gains and minimise the threat posed by tunnels, which Hamas has used to infiltrate Israel.

But Yaakov Peri, the Minister of Science and a member of the security cabinet, wrote on Friday that Israel needs to use diplomacy as well as military force.