U.S.-ISRAELI TENSIONS RISE AS HOSTILITIES IN GAZA SUBSIDE
Al Quds, 2 Shawal 1435/29 July 2014 (MINA) – An Israeli official was quoted as saying on Monday, as tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and Washington flared over U.S. mediation to end the almost three-week-old war.
Fighting had subsided over the weekend, with the battered Palestinian enclave’s dominant Hamas endorsing a U.N. call for a 24-hour halt ahead of Monday’s Eid al-Fitr festival. World bulletin quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
Yet Israel balked, having abandoned its own offer to extend a 12-hour truce from Saturday as Palestinian rocket launches persisted. Netanyahu’s security cabinet met into the early hours of Monday to debate proposals including for an escalation of the Gaza offensive in which almost 1,100 people have died.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited the region last week to try to stem the bloodshed, his contacts with Hamas – which Washington formally shuns – facilitated by Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel wants Egypt, which also borders the Gaza Strip and views Hamas as a security threat, to take the lead in curbing the Palestinian resistance. It worries about Doha and Ankara championing Hamas demands to open up the blockaded territory.
A flurry of media leaks by unnamed Israeli officials damning a draft agreement attributed to Kerry as too accommodating of Hamas was challenged by a U.S. official who, also anonymously, told reporters the top diplomat’s efforts had been mischaracterised.
But U.S. President Barack Obama, phoning Netanyahu on Sunday, put pressure on Israel to hold fire unconditionally and appeared to link its core demand for Hamas to be stripped of cross-border rockets and infiltration tunnels to a peace accord with the Palestinians that is nowhere on the diplomatic horizon.
The White House said that while Obama wanted any truce to be along the lines of an Egyptian deal that ended the last Gaza war, in November 2012, the United States also supported “regional and international coordination to end hostilities”.
Israel did not immediately respond nor publish what, if anything, was decided at the overnight security cabinet session.
But Israel Radio quoted an unidentified government official as saying: “There is no need for any more ceasefires. Let Hamas stop firing first.” .(T/P04/E01)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)