Inner cabinet meets to discuss possible Gaza ceasefire
Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO Israel’s diplomatic and security cabinet met late Monday night to discuss the latest cease-fire initiatives with Hamas, as international leaders continued to press for an end to the hostilities in Gaza.
The government agreed to briefly hold off on sending ground forces into Gaza in order to allow time for cease-fire efforts in Cairo to continue, an Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
“Israel prefers a diplomatic solution,” the official said, but added that any agreement must provide a real solution that would erase the threat of rocket attacks against the South.
If such a diplomatic solution is not found, then Israel is preparing its ground forces to enter Gaza, the official said.
US President Barack Obama called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to underscore the necessity of ending Hamas rocket fire into Israel, and to talk about ways to de-escalate the situation.
He also spoke with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, his third conversation with the prime minister since Operation Pillar of Defense was launched last Wednesday.
In both calls, Obama said he regretted the loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives.
In the middle of the afternoon, it appeared that Hamas and Israel were close to a deal, and that Hamas and Islamic Jihad had made a cease-fire offer to Israel.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Cairo on Monday, in hopes of helping both sides reach a cease-fire deal. He is expected to arrive in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Mashaal: Netanyahu, not Hamas asked for a cease-fire
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal claimed on Monday that Netanyahu had asked for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.
“Netanyahu was the one who requested a cease-fire from the Americans, Egypt and the Europeans,” Mashaal told reporters in Cairo. “We were not the ones to ask for a ceasefire.”
Addressing Netanyahu, the Hamas leader said, “Gaza is not the weak chapter for your adventures.
Gaza won’t be a testing ground for you. He who started the war should end it. This is the position of the political and military [Hamas] leadership.”
Mashaal boasted that Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip managed to achieve a balance of power with Israel within 48 hours after the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the commander of Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam.
Mashaal accused Netanyahu of ordering the IDF to target Hamas-affiliated institutions and media outlets “to cover up for his crimes,” and said that while Netanyahu had succeeded in killing Jabari, “he has failed to restore his army’s deterrence capability.”
An official in the Prime Minister’s Office denied Mashaal’s claim that Netanyahu had asked for a cease-fire.
“We have been hitting Hamas very hard,” the official said.
He explained that Israel had attacked Hamas’s weapons arsenal, leadership, buildings and communication apparatus from the air.
“Hamas is under a lot of pressure and as a result, they are saying many things that are in no way connected to reality,” he said.