Israel waits on ground assault as Gaza death toll hits 111
Gaza City: Israel temporarily put on hold a decision on a possible ground invasion of Gaza to give more time to Egypt`s truce efforts, but seven days of incessant raids took the Palestinian death toll to 111 amid warnings by Hamas that it won`t succumb to Israeli conditions.
Israel`s cabinet met late last night to discuss the latest ceasefire initiatives with Hamas, on the bloodiest day yet of the military offensive when over 30 Palestinians were killed in multiple strikes.
As UN chief Ban Ki-moon stepped into the Egypt-led efforts to strike a ceasefire, the Security Council wrangled over an Arab-proposed statement calling for Israel-Hamas hostilities to end, with Russia expressing frustration over the silence on the issue and blaming the US for blocking any action.
Early this morning, at least four people were injured when F-16 fighter jets hit the Islamic National Bank in Gaza City, which is located in a residential area, Al Jazeera reported.
At a late night cabinet meeting, the Israeli government agreed to briefly hold off sending ground forces into Gaza to see how the ceasefire efforts in Cairo turn out, according to Jerusalem Post.
This makes today`s round of talks in Cairo very crucial to the situation and if a tangible solution is not arrived at by the end of the day, Israel would then decide on a ground assault.
While several Western nations have supported Israel`s military offensive and its "right to defense", they have warned against launching a ground invasion of Gaza enclave.
Khaled Meshaal, leader of Hamas, the controlling authority of Gaza, said Hamas was aware that Israel is "capable" of an invasion, but warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that such a move would not "be a picnic, but a political disaster".
Speaking at a press conference in Cairo yesterday, Meshaal said Hamas was willing for a truce but the Israeli aggression and the continued economic blockade of Gaza should end.
"Whoever started the war must end it," he said, insisting that Hamas would not yield to Israeli conditions on a ceasefire.
UN Secretary-General Ban, who arrived in Cairo yesterday
for talks, will travel to Jerusalem today to lend his weight to calls for a "de-escalation" of hostilities.
On a diplomatic tour of Asia, US President Barack Obama called Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi to discuss ways to halt the violence while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to foreign ministers of France, Qatar and Turkey.
In Gaza, meanwhile, Israeli raids continued for a seventh day today, and medics said the death toll had reached to 111 in the narrow coastal territory, according to Al Jazeera.
Israel President Shimon Peres meanwhile accused Iran of encouraging the Palestinians to continue rocket attacks on Israel rather than negotiating a ceasefire even as he praised Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi`s role in the crisis.
"They are out of their mind," he said of the Iranians.
Yesterday, Israeli attacks flattened Gaza`s police headquarters and targeted a building housing media offices for a second time.
The building houses Palestinian and international media outlets, including Britain`s Sky News, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya and the official Hamas broadcaster, Al Aqsa TV.
The Islamic Jihad group said one of its commanders was killed in the attack.
In a similar attack on Sunday eight journalists were injured including one who had a leg amputated.
However, Israeli government spokesperson, Mark Regev said Israel was not targeting journalists but "Hamas communications equipment".
"Hamas used communication facilities on buildings where journalists were," he said, describing Al Aqsa TV as a "Hamas command and control facility".
The US meanwhile dispatched three warships to the region to be on standby, if needed for the purpose of evacuation of Americans in the region.
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