Israel offers ceasfire as it prepares ground offensive in Gaza

Originally published: November 18, 2012
Updated: December 29, 2014 at 11:08 am

According to reports out of Egypt, Israel has demanded six key elements for a lasting ceasefire while the threat of ground offensive in Gaza looms if no response within 48 to 72 hours. The IDF continues its airstrikes in Gaza and has hit more than 1,100 targets since the operation began.

Earlier on Sunday, Egyptian security officials said that an Israeli official had arrived in Cairo in order to discuss a ceasefire agreement. Some Hamas figures have declared that the ceasefire negotiations have failed, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the cessation of rocket fire on Israel is a prerequisite for starting talks, but Palestinian sources who are familiar with Cairo’s efforts to broker a truce said it was too soon to announce that the talks have collapsed.

On Sunday senior Fatah official Nabil Sha’ath arrived in the Egyptian capital and met with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal. Sha’ath said Mashaal informed him that the negotiations have entered a serious stage but expressed doubt that an agreement would be reached anytime soon due to Israel’s demands and its refusal to accept demands put forward by Hamas and the other Palestinian terror organizations.

According to the reports, these are the conditions for a ceasefire set forth by Israel:

1. A lull for a period of more than 15 years.

2. An immediate cessation of arms smuggling and the transfer of weapons to Gaza.

3. Cessation of rocket fire on the part of all armed Palestinian factions and an end to attacks on soldiers near the Gaza border.

4. Israel has the right to hunt down terrorists in the event of an attack or if it obtains information on an imminent attack.

5. The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt will remain open, but the crossings on the Gaza-Israel border will remain closed.

6. Egypt’s politicians, headed by President Mohammed Morsi, will be the guarantors of any ceasefire agreement. Meaning, the agreement will be backed by Egypt’s political echelon rather than by its security establishment.

Meanwhile Hamas’ demands for a ceasefire include the lifting of the naval blockade of Gaza, international community guarantees for the cessation of targeted killings, an end to IDF cross-border raids and the cessation of attacks on fishermen off the coast.

According to Sha’ath, Israel has withdrawn a key demand that Hamas lay down its arms and make certain that the rocket fire on Israel is stopped entirely. The Palestinian official said the negotiations have entered a “very important” phase.

The Palestinian sources said Israel has threatened that if there is no response to its demands within the next 48 to 72 hours, it will launch a ground offensive accompanied by continued attacks on Gaza from the air and sea until the Hamas regime is overthrown.

The IDF has completed its preparations for a possible invasion of Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a stern warning to Hamas on Sunday, declaring that the Israeli army was prepared to significantly widen its Gaza offensive. Israel’s operation has drawn Western support for what US and European leaders have called Israel’s right to self-defense, however there have also been a growing number of calls from world leaders to seek an end to the violence.

On Sunday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned that a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip “would lose Israel a lot of the international support and sympathy that they have in this situation.” Hague told Sky News television it was much more difficult to limit civilian casualties in a ground assault and said it would threaten to prolong the conflict.

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