Diplomatic push for Gaza truce continues

Diplomatic push for Gaza truce continues

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is looking to seek a truce between Israel and Hamas as diplomatic efforts were taking place in Cairo, Ramallah and Jerusalem, as violence continues in Gaza.

At least twenty six more Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been killed in Israeli latest raids, raising the toll to 139, while fighters from Gaza fired rockets that killed two Israelis, bringing the death toll in Israel to five since Wednesday

Clinton arrived in the West Bank on Wednesday and then headed to Cairo following talks with Israeli leaders.

More than 130 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed since the violence began eight days ago.

On Tuesday, Clinton met the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Earlier Tuesday a Hamas official had said that the  anticipated announcement of a Gaza truce agreement  with Israel had been delayed until Wednesday.

Israel Radio quoted an Israeli official saying a truce was held up due to "a last-minute delay in the understandings between Hamas and Israel."

Overnight Israeli missile attacks killed at least 26 more Palestinians, raising the toll to 139, while fighters from Gaza fired rockets that killed two Israelis.

An initial halt to attacks may, however, not see the sides stand their forces down from battle stations immediately.

Clinton, who flies to Cairo to see Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi later on Wednesday, spoke of a deal "in the days ahead".

Test period

Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman, reporting from Jerusalem said: "What they are looking for is a general statement coming from the Egyptian government to say there will be a 48-hour test period and then a long term solution, rather than direct talks between Israel and Hamas."

"Clinton's main work will be when she is in Cairo to meet Morsi," according to Ackerman.

A UN Security Council statement condemning the conflict was blocked on Tuesday by the US, which complained that it "failed to address the root cause," the Palestinian rockets.

Netanyahu, who faces an election in two months that he is, for now, favoured to win, told Clinton he wanted a "long-term" solution.

Failing that, Netanyahu made clear, he stood ready to step up the military campaign to silence Hamas' rockets.

Clinton assured Netanyahu of "rock-solid" US support for Israel's security, spoke of seeking a "durable outcome" and of Egypt's "responsibility" for promoting peace.

"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," said Clinton.

Netanyahu, who has appeared in no immediate rush to repeat the invasion of winter 2008-09 in which over 1,400 Palestinians were killed, said: "If there is a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to this problem with diplomatic means, we prefer that.

"Loss of human life"

Earlier on Tuesday, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held talks with Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

"Regrettably, I'm back again in the region only nine months since my last visit, because of violence in Israel and Gaza...the world is extremely concerned at the rising loss of human lives," Ban said.

He will also meet Abbas to discuss the crisis.

Ban also met the Arab League chief, Nabil el-Araby, in Cairo and called for support for Morsi's efforts to mediate a truce in the conflict.

A delegation of nine Arab ministers, led by Mohamed Amr, Egyptian foreign minister, visited Gaza in a further signal of heightened Arab solidarity with the Palestinians.

El-Araby said a ceasefire is not the the real issue facing Gaza.

"The real problem is not a truce. The real problem that the Arab and Islamic countries and all friendly countries in the world must focus on is ending the occupation," said el-Araby.

The United Nations Security Council, meanwhile, is due to hold a session on the crisis in Gaza on Wednesday at 15:00 GMT.

houses bombed

Palestinian emergency services said that two brothers in the southern town of Rafah were killed in a strike that hit their motorcycle on Tuesday night. Four others were killed in raids around the central town of Deir al-Balah, they added.

Israel also confirmed a strike on a building housing the offices of media organisations, the third such strike in three days. It said that it carried out a "surgical" strike on "a Hamas intelligence operations centre" in these building.

Al Jazeera's bureau in Gaza was also damaged as a missile hit a building nearby, no casualties were reported.

"I was in the office with a fixer and suddenly we heard an explosion," said Mahmud Hams, an AFP photographer, adding that the explosion shook the building. "About five minutes passed and then we heard two more loud explosions that  also shook the building," he said.

A soldier was killed by a mortar in the Eshkol border region, according to the Israeli military. Later, a civilian was killed when a rocket landed in the same region.

The Israeli military has struck at least 1,450 targets in Gaza since attacks began last Wednesday.

Since then, at least 760 rockets have hit Israel while almost 400 others have been intercepted by Israel's anti-missile system, the Iron Dome , according to the Israeli arm.

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