CAIRO: Egypt renewed its call for a truce to end the Gaza conflict on Friday as Israel intensified its land offensive on Friday and warned it could ‘significantly widen’ its operation. The moves came as France asked Qatar to use its influence with the Palestinian movement to reach a ceasefire.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, speaking at a news conference in Cairo with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius, urged all sides to engage in negotiations to end the bloodshed.
“We hope that all sides will support this initiative so that bloodshed stops and this escalation does not get worse. We call on all sides to accept this proposal. We are working to find a framework so that both sides agree,” Shukri said. An earlier Cairo initiative was accepted by Israel but rejected by Hamas.
Palestinian officials said Israel was killing ever greater numbers of civilians. Palestinian health officials said 44 Palestinians, including a baby, four children and a 70-year-old woman, had been killed since Israel sent ground forces on Thursday into the densely-populated enclave of 1.8 million Palestinians. The Israeli military said it killed 17 Palestinian gunmen while another 13 surrendered and were taken for questioning after the infantry and tank assault began in the Hamas-dominated territory.
The Israeli land advance followed 10 days of barrages against Gaza from air and sea, and hundreds of rockets fired by Hamas into Israel. In total nearly 285 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and two Israelis have been killed.
Fabius told Reuters that France had asked Qatar, which has close links with Hamas, to help to reach a ceasefire.
“President Mahmoud Abbas asked me to use France’s influence with its partners to try to convince Hamas to accept a ceasefire,” he said. Fabius met the president of the Palestinian Authority earlier on Friday.
“With regard to Qatar, I told my counterpart our analysis of the situation and he underlined that, in his opinion, Hamas would need points to negotiate a lifting of the blockade on Gaza to accept a ceasefire,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2014.