Efforts To Reach Israel-Hamas Truce Intensify
November 21, 2012
Amid reports of a blast on a Tel Aviv bus, efforts to secure a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas are intensifying.
Reuters has quoted rescue workers as saying that the explosion in Israel's commercial capital on November 21 injured at least 10 people. Police are describing the incident as a "terrorist attack."
Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Jerusalem, saying she had come with a "clear message" from President Barack Obama of "rock-solid" and "unwavering" support for Israel's right to defend itself.
She said it was "essential to deescalate" the conflict and for rocket attacks on Israel to end.
Clinton said she would work with regional leaders, including Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi in Cairo later on November 21. Egypt is one of the main mediators in the eight-day-old conflict, which has so far claimed at least 136 Palestinian and five Israeli victims.
"In the days ahead the United States will work with our partners here in Israel and across the region toward an outcome that bolsters security for the people of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza, and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region," Clinton said at a press conference in Jerusalem.
Standing alongside Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his support for a diplomatic solution, but said Israel would also take all needed steps to defend itself.
"If there is a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to this problem with diplomatic means, we prefer that. But if not, I'm sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary to defend its people," Netanyahu said.
The two later held two hours of talks.
Clinton subsequently met with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank capital of Ramallah to discuss efforts to bring about a cease-fire.
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is also in the region to try to mediate.
Ban condemned Hamas rocket attacks and urged Israel to show "maximum restraint."
"While Israeli rockets may be aimed at military targets inside Gaza, they kill and injure civilians and damage civilian infrastructure. The loss of civilian lives is unacceptable under any circumstances. The excessive use of force is unlawful and must be rejected," Ban said.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the Gaza crisis later on November 21.
The announcement comes after the United States blocked adoption of a unanimous press statement from the council because it did not explicitly criticize Hamas' rocket attacks on Israel.
Hope of a truce breakthrough were dealt a setback after Hamas said an Egyptian-brokered deal that it had expected to be in place by the evening on November 20 had been delayed because Israel had not responded to proposals.
As talks continued so too did the violence.
Two journalists working for the Hamas TV station, Al-Aqsa, were killed in an Israeli air strike on their car.
Iran's English-language Press TV said one of its reporters had been injured in the bombing in Gaza as well.
The Palestinian death toll now stands at more than 130, including at least 54 civilians. Some 800 people in Gaza have been wounded, according to Palestinian health officials, including some 220 children.
The Israeli death toll has risen to five after a soldier and a civilian contractor working for the military were killed on November 20.
Analysts say that figure could be higher if not for Israel's antimissile-defense system, which has shot down many of the incoming projectiles.
Based on AP and Reuters reporting
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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