A last-ditch effort by the U.S. to broker a temporary Gaza truce was thrown into doubt Friday when Israeli media reported that Israel’s Security Cabinet rejected the plan. Shortly afterwards, Israel’s defense minister said its ground operation in Gaza may soon be “significantly” broadened.
France to host international meeting on Saturday to try to reach ceasefire in #Gaza "as quickly as possible": French diplomatic source
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) July 25, 2014
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal calls for a week-long pause in Israel-Hamas fighting, during which the two sides would begin indirect talks on easing the border closure of the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Hamas has demanded that Gaza’s crossings be opened. Israel and Egypt imposed the Gaza closure in 2007, after the Islamic militant Hamas seized the territory by force.
Israel’s Security Cabinet unanimously rejected the proposal in its current form, mainly because it would mean Israel would have to cut short an ongoing effort to destroy Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border.
Israel considers the tunnels to be a strategic threat because Gaza militants have used them to stage surprise attacks. Israeli troops have so far destroyed about half of the 31 underground passages discovered during the Gaza operation.
In Cairo, Kerry met twice Friday with UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri to try to bring a week-long pause in the Israel-Hamas fighting — a cease-fire that could have begun as soon as this weekend.
Kerry delayed his anticipated departure from Cairo for several hours to talk again by phone to Qatari officials who are serving as a go-between with Hamas, which the U.S. considers terrorist organization and cannot negotiate with directly.
Over the last week, Kerry made clear during his travels from Cairo to Ramallah to Israel that he wants to secure at least a temporary truce pause before he returns to Washington.
U.S. efforts have been frustrated by distrust between Israeli and Palestinian officials and among Mideast nations that have taken sides in the conflict even as they agreed to push for a cease-fire.
The U.S. wants at least a temporary truce before it tries to usher Israel and Hamas through negotiations that could take years to resolve. The last cease-fire brokered by Egypt and the U.S. took effect in November 2012.
This story was compiled used information from the Associated Press and Reuters.