Cease-fire to End Israeli-Gaza Hostilities Announced
November 21, 2012
by VOA News
Egypt announced on Wednesday a cease-fire in Israel-Gaza hostilities that will take effect at 9 p.m. local time.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr made the announcement in Cairo with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at his side.
The truce comes after hours after intense shuttle-diplomacy involving Clinton, as well as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Clinton praised Egypt's new government for assuming a key role in the effort and said the U.S. and Egypt will work together to support the next steps in the process.
“This is a critical moment for the region,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, at a press conference in Cairo.
Before word of the truce came, attacks rocked both sides of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip end the violence that has killed more than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis.
Inside Israel, a bomb blast Wednesday on a bus in central Tel Aviv injured at least 20 people, some seriously.
Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says security teams are on high alert.
"As far as we're concerned, what took place is there was at least a package or possibly a suicide bomber that planted a device and maybe left the scene," he said. "The investigation is continuing at the moment, and we're looking in a number of different directions.
"We've heightened security around the area, including roadblocks that have been set up, and we're not taking any chances whatsoever, in order to prevent a further attack from taking place," he said.
In Gaza City, the bombing met with approval from Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, who called the bombing revenge for civilian deaths in Gaza in recent days.
"Hamas sends congratulations for this operation which occurred in Tel Aviv and confirms that this is the normal response for targeting the Daloo family and Palestinian women and children," he said. "We will use all means to protect our Palestinian people whilst facing aggression which is targeting Palestinian women and children."
New rounds of missile and air attacks rained down on Gaza following the Tel Aviv attack. Palestinians medics say so far Wednesday at least 10 people were killed, including a young boy.
Israel and Hamas have traded rocket fire since an Israeli missile killed Hamas' military chief in Gaza City last week. Israel says the attack was a direct response to months of almost daily rocket fire into southern Israel from Gaza.
Reporting from Gaza, VOA Correspondant Scott Bobb said, "If this conflict has done anything, it has rallied support for the Hamas group, which had a sizable opposition among the population here, and has also rallied support for Hamas in other parts of the West Bank and perhaps even other parts of the Arab world."
He added the current conflict has served to polarize both sides, making people more angry and afraid.
Some of that anger was visible Wednesday outside the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where shop owners distributed cakes and candies upon hearing of the Israeli bus explosion.
"They took our land and we must take it back by force," said one. "What was taken by force can only be returned by force."
Clinton arrived in Cairo Wednesday to push for a truce. Late Tuesday, she discussed the volatile situation for two hours with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israel officials.
Netanyahu said before the meeting he prefers diplomacy to halt cross-border attacks. But he again pledged that Israel will take every action to protect its citizens, adding that no country can tolerate attacks on its citizens.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is also in the region and discussed the conflict with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah before arriving in Cairo.
"The United Nations system will organize all necessary humanitarian assistance, to those people who need," he said. "At the same time what is important at this time is to have a sustainable political negotiation and dialogue. I have urged President Abbas to continue and accelerate the peace process."
Palestinians blame Israel
Abbas said he was working with the U.N., Jordan and the U.S. toward a peaceful solution but was adamant Israel is to blame.
"There is no doubt that Israel holds the responsibility, because despite all the tension between Gaza and Israel, Israel has started all the assassinations, and it assassinated one of Hamas leaders, which led to an escalation of the situations in those areas," he said.
Abbas does has little influence in Hamas-ruled Gaza, but his West Bank government could be instrumental in implementing a cease-fire agreement on the Gaza side.
Also Wednesday, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby voiced support for the people in Gaza, affirming their right to fight back.
"Gaza is an occupied territory and all the people of the world have the right to resist occupation," he said. "No one could imagine the tragic circumstances that the Palestinian people are living through."
In Tel Aviv, Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau accused Hamas of putting all of Israel under siege.
"The whole state of Israel is a front line," he said. "There is no front and back, we are all in the front, and if someone hesitated, if this is true, the bus today in Saul Hamelech Boulevard is the best proof."
VOA'S Jeff Seldin contributed to this report from Washington and Robert Berger from Jerusalem.
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