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Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Clinton presses ahead with Israel-Hamas cease-fire talks as violence drags on Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/11/20/clinton-headed-to-jerusalem-ramallah-and-cairo-to-seek-end-to-israelgaza/#ixzz2CsKXLNtm
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is back in Israel
Wednesday after a visit to the West Bank where she continued her efforts
to broker a truce between Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers.
However, despite reports Tuesday that a cease-fire may be on the
horizon, violence continued on both sides of the conflict. Israeli media
reported Wednesday that an explosion on a bus across from the military
headquarters in Tel Aviv injured at least 10, as Israeli airstrikes
continued to pound Gaza overnight.
Clinton said the U.S. "strongly condemns" the bus bombing, calling it a "terrorist attack."
Zaki Heller from the Israeli rescue services told The Associated
Press that the wounded in the bus explosion have varying degrees of
injuries, but was unclear if anyone was killed. An Israeli driver who
witnessed the explosion told Army Radio the bus was "completely charred
Clinton went back to Jerusalem Wednesday after holding talks in the West Bank with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
She will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense
Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in her
attempts to help piece together a deal that would satisfy the two foes
after eight days of fighting.
Clinton, who will meet with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi later
Wednesday, has indicated it could take some time to iron out an
agreement after more than a week of fighting.
"The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability
and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and
Palestinians alike," Clinton said after meeting with Netanyahu.
The two sides had seemed on the brink of a deal following a swirl of
diplomatic activity also involving the U.N. chief and Morsi. But
sticking points could not be resolved as talks -- and violence --
stretched into the night.
Meanwhile, Israeli aircraft pounded Gaza with at least 30 strikes
overnight Tuesday, hitting government ministries, smuggling tunnels, a
banker's empty villa and a Hamas-linked media office located two floors
above the office of the French news agency, Agence France-Presse.
At least four strikes within seconds of each other pulverized a
complex of government ministries the size of a city block, rattling
nearby buildings and shattering surrounding windows. Hours later, clouds
of acrid dust still hung over the area and smoke still rose from the
The impact of the blast demolished the nearby office of attorney
Salem Dahdouh, who was searching through files buried in the debris.
"Where are human rights?" he asked, saying officials negotiating a cease-fire ought to see the devastation.
In downtown Gaza City, another strike leveled the empty, two-story
home of a well-known banker and buried a police car parked nearby in
Medics said a child living in the area was killed, raising the
Palestinian death toll to at least 138. Five Israelis have also been
killed by Palestinian rocket fire, which continued early Wednesday.
The Israeli military said its targets included the Ministry of
Internal Security, which it says served as one of Hamas' main command
and control centers, a military hideout used as a senior operatives'
meeting place and a communications center.
Washington blames Hamas rocket fire for the outbreak of violence and
has backed Israel's right to defend itself, but has cautioned that an
Israeli ground invasion could send casualties soaring.
"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," she said Tuesday night in Jerusalem, speaking alongside
In the West Bank, Clinton was to meet with Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas. The U.S. considers Hamas, which has killed hundreds of
Israelis in suicide and other attacks, to be a terror group and does not
meet with its officials.
While Abbas does not have any practical influence in Gaza, his West
Bank government would be instrumental in implementing any new
arrangements on the Gaza border that would be part of a cease-fire pact.
Israel and Egypt slammed shut the border after the militant group
seized the territory from Abbas in June 2007, hoping to disrupt Hamas
rule. Both sides have since eased the restrictions, but many remain.
Hamas official Izzat Risheq predicted a truce deal would be reached
Wednesday, but the movement wouldn't discuss what the problems were.
Israeli media quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak as telling a closed
meeting that Israel wanted a 24-hour test period of no rocket fire to
see if Hamas could enforce a truce among its forces and other Gaza
Palestinian officials briefed on the negotiations said Hamas wanted
assurances of a comprehensive deal that included new arrangements for
prying open Gaza's heavily restricted borders -- and were resisting
Israeli proposals for a phased agreement. The officials spoke on
condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the
Israel launched the offensive on Nov. 14 following months of rocket
salvoes from the territory into southern Israel, which has endured
attacks for the past 13 years. For its opening salvo, it assassinated
Hamas' military chief, then followed up by bombarding the militant-run
territory to its south with more than 1,500 airstrikes that initially
targeted rocket launchers and weapons storage sites, then widened to
include wanted militants and symbols of Hamas power.
Defying Israel's claims that they've been badly battered, the
militants have so far fired more than 1,400 rockets at Israel, drawing
upon newly developed and smuggled weapons to extend the reach of their
attacks toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel's largest cities. The
number of Israelis within rocket range leapt to 3.5 million from 1
Dozens of civilians are among the more than 130 Palestinians killed
in a week of fighting. Four Israeli civilians and a soldier have been
killed by rocket fire -- a toll possibly kept down by a U.S.-funded
rocket defense system that has shot down hundreds of Gaza projectiles.
In a meeting with Netanyahu, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon condemned
Palestinian rocket attacks, but urged Israel to show "maximum
"Further escalation benefits no one," he said before returning to Egypt, which is mediating the truce talks.
Israel demands an end to rocket fire from Gaza and a halt to weapons
smuggling into the territory through tunnels under the border with
Egypt. It also wants international guarantees that Hamas will not rearm
or use Egypt's Sinai region, which abuts both Gaza and southern Israel,
to attack Israelis.
Hamas wants Israel to halt all attacks on Gaza and lift tight
restrictions on trade and movement in and out of the territory that have
been in place since it seized the territory. Israel has rejected such
demands in the past.
Egypt's new Islamist government is playing a key role in the
negotiations to broker a deal between the two sides, which shun each
other. It is also expected to play a pivotal role in maintaining any
deal, performing a difficult balancing act as an ideological ally of
Hamas, recipient of U.S. aid and one of just two of Israel's Arab
neighbors to have made peace with Israel.