An agreement between Israel and Hamas may be close, amid reports that Israel has put off ground operations for 24 hours, to try and reach a ceasefire.
Negotiations between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt in Cairo, entered a critical stage on Tuesday, Israeli daily Haaretz reported. This comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused French and Qatari mediation.
According to Al-Arabiya, all parties are negotiating a deal to secure a ceasefire and the end of targeted Israeli assassinations, as well as the lifting of the siege on Gaza which has enforced by Egypt and Israel since 2007. Egyptian officials told Haaretz that the deal is close but the Israeli side needs to show more flexibility. The agreement, which will be guaranteed by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy, will start with a 24 or 48 hour truce.
The Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip started on Wednesday, 14 November and is code named Operation Pillar of Defence. It began with the targeted assassination of Head of the armed wing of Hamas, Ahmed Jaabari, after several days of tension between Israel and armed groups in Gaza which were firing rockets into southern Israel. During the offensive, the Israeli army has mobilized its naval and air forces but hasn’t yet engaged in ground operations.
Late Monday night, US President Barack Obama called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy and said that it is necessary that Hamas stops firing rockets into Israel. He also discussed ways to “de-escalate” the situation in Gaza, according to a White House press release. Following the talk with Morsy, he called Netanyahu to receive an update on the situation in Gaza.
The Israeli operation completed its seventh day on Tuesday and the death toll so far on the Palestinian side has reached 119, including at least 30 women and children. In addition, there are over 900 injured. Israel says that over 600 rockets have been fired into southern Israel since the operation started on Wednesday, in addition to 300 intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system. On the Israeli side, three have been killed. During the first six days of violence, Israel destroyed 25 mosques.
Israel says the objective of the operation is to destroy terror sites.
A spokesperson for the Israeli army said that it hit, “underground rocket launchers, terror tunnels, Hamas command posts and weapon storage facilities,” overnight Tuesday. Israel struck over 100 sites on Tuesday, including the National Bank which the Israeli army spokesperson referred to as “Hamas financial institutions.”
Israel shut down the Karm Abu Salem border crossing on Tuesday morning, following reported rocket fire at the crossing.