News / Middle East

    As US, UN Pursue Gaza Cease-fire, Fighting Rages

    • Israeli airstrikes pummel a wide range of targets in the Gaza Strip; an Israeli tank is seen here while heavy smoke rises from Gaza, July 22, 2014. 
    • Palestinians inspect the damage of the Al-Shalam (Peace) tower, destroyed by an overnight Israeli strike, in Gaza City, July 22, 2014. 
    • A relative bursts into tears while mourners try to comfort him as they gather around the bodies of seven members of the Kelani family, killed overnight by an Israeli strike in Gaza City, in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, July 22, 2014.
    • A Palestinian family flees from their home in Gaza City, July 22, 2014. 
    • Israelis try to comfort a woman overcome by emotion after a rocket was fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza, into Yahud, central Israel, July 22, 2014.
    • As smoke rises in the skyline from an Israeli strike, mourners holding palm tree fronds gather to bury seven members of the Kelani family killed overnight by an Israeli strike in Gaza City, in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, July 22, 2014.
    • Thousands of Israelis attended the funeral of Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, at the military cemetery in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, July 21, 2014. 
    • Palestinian Khaled Sharmi, 67, walks past the Al Aqsa Martyrs mosque, destroyed by an overnight Israeli strike, in Gaza City, July 22, 2014.
    Israel Hits 70 Targets in Gaza
    VOA News

    Diplomatic efforts to mediate a cease-fire in Gaza intensified Tuesday, as Israeli warplanes continued to bombard Hamas targets, militants responded with more rockets, and Israeli military officials confirmed the identity of a missing soldier presumed dead.

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Cairo in an effort to end the conflict. The top U.S. diplomat said an Egyptian initiative could be the framework for a cease-fire, a proposal Israel said a week ago it would accept, even as Hamas rejected it.

    Ban arrived in Jerusalem late Tuesday afternoon and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling for an urgent end to the death and suffering.

    "My message to Israelis and Palestinians is the same: Stop fighting. Start talking. And take on the root causes of the conflict so that we are not back to the same position in another six months or a year," Ban said.

    "We must address these underlying issues," said Ban, "including the mutual recognition, occupation, despair and denial of dignity so people do not feel they have to resort to violence as a means of expressing their grievances. Military actions will not increase Israel's stability and security in the longer term."  

    Netanyahu responded by saying Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, refuses to recognize Israel and calls for its destruction. He also said Hamas rejects the two-state solution that has been accepted by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

    "In the face of such extremism, in the face of such violence, in the face of such terror, Israel has no option but to defend itself,” Netanyahu concluded. “And this is what we are doing, as is our right.”

    "Hamas," said Netanyahu, "is like ISIS, Hamas is like al-Qaida, Hamas is like Hezbollah, Hamas is like Boko Haram and there are so many others of these Islamist groups that defy modernity, that reject pluralism, that reject respect of human rights, that use its [their] own people as human shields, that attack indiscriminately civilians. This is part of a larger pattern."

    But as they talked, Israeli warplanes continued to bombard Hamas targets in Gaza, while the militants fired more rockets into Israel.

    Ban flew to Israel from Egypt, where he met with Egyptian officials and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as part of the mediation effort.

    Missing Israeli soldier identified

    Israel Defense Forces named Sergeant Oron Shaul as unaccounted for in Gaza, the Jerusalem Post reported and news services reported. The 21-year-old was among seven Israeli soldiers whose armored vehicle was hit by an anti-tank missile fired by Palestinian fighters Sunday morning. The other six were confirmed dead.

    It’s unclear whether Shaul is alive or dead, the paper reported, noting the military is urgently working to confirm his status.

    The military’s announcement Tuesday followed a claim by Hamas that it had kidnapped an Israeli soldier Sunday during heavy fighting on the Gaza border,  the Jerusalem Post said.

    Israel’s chief military spokesman said on Israel Radio that "we are still trying to locate one soldier from the team," Reuters quoted Brigadier-General Motti Almoz as saying.   

    Death toll climbs

    Map of Israel, Gaza and the West BankMap of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank
    x
    Map of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank
    Map of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank

    Israel kept up its assaults in the Gaza strip, pummeling a wide range of targets. Overnight, it bombed five mosques, a sports complex and the home of the late Hamas military chief, a Gaza police official said.

    There has been no let-up in cross-border rocket fire either, with 116 rockets hitting Israel on Monday, one striking the greater Tel Aviv area, and another 17 shot down.

    Israeli officials said the 15 days of rockets, missile attacks and air strikes had killed 29 Israelis, including two civilians. 

    The Gaza Health Ministry reported at least 609 Palestinians have been killed since the offensive's July 8 launch, the AP reported.

    The U.N. has said at least three-fourths of them were civilians, among them scores of children.

    On Tuesday alone, at least 23 people were killed in fresh Israeli strikes, Gaza health officials said. Five were members of the same family who died in a strike on Deir al-Balah in central Gaza. Four of the victims were women, an official said.

    Another 3,640 people have been wounded, authorities said.

    A spokesman for the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Assistance in Geneva, Jens Laerke, said that in densely populated Gaza, "there is literally no safe place for civilians."

    Since the offensive, more than 100,000 Gazans have fled their homes, seeking shelter in 69 schools run by the Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), the French news agency AFP reported.

    In Tel Aviv, hundreds of Israelis demonstrated in support of their soldiers. In neighboring Jaffa, hundreds of Israeli-Arabs demonstrated against the Israeli offensive and in support of Hamas.  

    Israel has signaled it is not in a hurry to achieve a truce before reaching a goal of crippling Hamas' militant infrastructure, including rocket arsenals and networks of tunnels threatening Israelis living along the Gaza frontier.

    Hamas has demandedthat  Israel and Egypt lift a blockade on the coastal territory packed with 1.8 million people, mostly refugees, and that Israel release several hundred Palestinians detained during a search last month for three Jewish teenagers later found dead. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas.

    Given the violence, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday announced it was prohibiting U.S. flights to Israel. Major lines including US Airways and United have suspended flights to and from Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport after a rocket fired by militants landed nearthe airport.

    VOA's Scott Bobb contributed to this report, with some information also provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.

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    by: alfredo ibarra barajas from: México
    July 23, 2014 9:13 PM
    Is it finally coming comeupance for Israel? It seems so. Major airlines from Europe and US are halting their flights to Tel Aviv, and that is going to be sooner or later a cause for concern. According to UN exists the possibility that Israel is commiting war crimes in Gaza, and we are all seeing that. If Israel knows that despite warnings to Gaza citizens to abandon their homes because of imminent attacks and Gazans stay put, it is because they prefer to die than to abandon their homes, or perhaps they count on some mercy on behalf of Israel, because they are innocent. Just put yourself in their shoes, if someone compels you to abandon your house, you will stay put no matter what. Let Israel and Hamas solve their differences, without draging innocents into the their conflict, because what guilt have them. And if Israel knows that Gazans don't leave their homes, and still they attack, it is doing the exact same thing of which it accuses Hamas of doing, that is, to attack indiscriminately and wantonly to the civil population. Don't bring the Bible into the conflict, only common sense rules, and common sense will prevail in the end. We all come from the same stock, no one is superior to no one Arabs, Israelis, Africans, Europeans etcétera we are all the same. I don't think the common Israeli discriminates his fellow beings, the common Israelis come across as nice people, they try to help. It is the people in the power. In America all races live close to one another. Try to immitate that Hamas and Israel.

    by: bfar from: canada
    July 23, 2014 2:28 AM
    and i want to also say, i am Canadian living in America -- and i can tell you this -- THE AVERAGE AMERICAN DOES NOT NOT NOT NOT SUPPORT ISRAEL AWFUL CONDUCTS . it goes against everything americans believe -- rights and value of ALL PEOPLES -- each and every single person is precious -- no "tribe" is "superior" --- that is the TRUTH about how Americans feel -- the Congress has been too influenced by Israel.
    How hard would it be GIVE PALESTINIANS some land and a free completely independent State of their own?????
    In Response

    by: Michelle from: Belgium
    July 23, 2014 10:58 AM
    You are not very informed are you? UN and Israel have been offering they own state numerous times since 1948 but they have rejected it in every way, they want to have a state but in the place of Israel, understand? I hope so.
    In Response

    by: Estelle from: United Kingdom
    July 23, 2014 10:30 AM
    Hamas have constantly rejected the 2 state solution...perhaps you can go convince them to accept?

    by: bfar from: canada
    July 23, 2014 2:24 AM
    An israeli told me the Israeli arabs and also the blacks --
    "they are treated like animals" and i guess it is legal to discriminate against them -- deny them access to things and so forth ---
    my question is : WHY is anyone supporting these jerks --
    they sob around about their own "tribe" --- yet but think nothing of plowing into schoolhouses and homes with tanks where innocent children and mothers .

    by: Smart Rufus
    July 23, 2014 1:37 AM
    The total blockade of Gaza by Israel has lasted for many, many years. During this period Israeli casualties have been minimum. This cannot be said of Gaza civilians and of Hamas Militants. For the outsider this seems to be a dandy situation in Bibiland because there is no change in rhetoric and arrogant actions from the Likud gang. Meanwhile, America is to its waist in the very sticky dirty mud that for decades long this territorial, political and religious conflict has created. The consequences of this conflict have had very negative results for US economics and foreign policy in the Middle East.

    by: Jon Jones
    July 23, 2014 1:07 AM
    Israel gave concessions in 2005 by evacuating Israeli population and giving Gaza over with 2000 greenhouses. The Palestinians destroyed the produce producing greenhouses and spent billions given to them by international community turning gaza into a military zone digging tunnels for war rather than roads for infrastructure, spending money on missiles rather than improving their quality of life. Concessions were tried and they did not work. Kicking the Arabs out next time will be the better option. Arabs only know bloodshed, when not spilling the blood of infidels they are spilling their own blood by the hundreds of thousands ie. assad in syria, and civil wars in virtually every moslem dominant country. It is laughable how the world gets up in arms about 500 Palestinians killed when the world ignores the hundreds of thousands of arabs killed by themselves. Mooslim and pluralistic democracy are incompatible with Sharia law. Why can't the Palestinians leave Gaza. Small fact not mentioned by the press, Palestinians are forbidden to enter surrounding Arab countries like a leper is forbidden from healthy society. The problem is the Arabs refuse to mingle with their brethren. Don't blame Israel
    In Response

    by: Dalvin from: Australia
    July 23, 2014 1:26 PM
    I very strongly disagree with ya. am African, I don't care how or why the ongoing conflict between the Palestinian and Israeli started, but would wouldn't support the killing of innocent citizens of of Gaza!! Humanity is one people, we both come from a single tribe regardless of our appearance. There is no "their people" there's only "us" we are all one! You saying we should blame the Israel makes me think may Hitler was right too, perhaps the world misunderstood him!
    In Response

    by: Estelle from: United Kingdom
    July 23, 2014 10:33 AM
    Well said....absolutely true!

    by: meanbill from: USA
    July 22, 2014 11:14 PM
    PICTURE THIS.... Israel has an overwhelming super superior military force against Hamas who has almost nothing, (like the US had, in the conflicts and wars they fought, but never won).... (and now), Israel can't defeat Hamas, just like the US couldn't defeat the Taliban..... (and now), can Israel ever do what the US couldn't do in Iraq, and Afghanistan? .... Israel should try to get a ceasefire by offering concessions, or this war won't end, until you kill all of them.... or end apartheid occupation?

    Ho Chi Minh "quote" said it; .. "If you want to fight a war for (40) years or more, we'll fight a war for (40) years or more, but if you want to drink tea together, we'll drink tea together, and talk" .. and after (16) long bloody years, the US finally decided to drink tea... (BEWARE)... Israel must know, their enemies are closely watching this Gaza war, searching out all the Israeli weaknesses, and the effectiveness of their "Iron Dome" missile defense.... (Mighty Goliath Israel vs tiny David Gaza?)
    In Response

    by: Jon Jones
    July 23, 2014 1:20 AM
    Israel gave concessions when we gave Gaza to the Arabs. They took 2000 greenhouses and destroyed them they took billions of international aid and used it to make gaza a military zone with war tunnels for attack and storage of missiles not to mention make this war zone in the middle of their civilian population. concessions don't work
    In Response

    by: hz from: USA
    July 23, 2014 1:07 AM
    This is different. All the US wars, the US didn't want to stay there forever. And that's why eventually the US left (Iraq, Afghanistan, or Vietnam). And that's why Ho Chi Minh can say 40 years of war because he knew the US wouldn't do that. But Israel is different. Israel is going to stay. That's their homeland. So if Hamas wants to fight 40 years, Israel will fight 40 years, or even 100 years, or forever. Because Jewish people won't go anywhere. They have been driven out of their home land for centuries and has been massacred by millions all over the world. The solely purpose of their return to Israel is to stay. I don't think Hamas can fight for 40 years, but I believe Jewish people have the determination to fight forever if that's the only way to hold their home land.

    by: Taiwo from: Lokoja
    July 22, 2014 2:22 PM
    Cease fire will Orly give hamas chance to prépare more rackets for launch, let the opération continue and see what hamas intend to gain through firing of racket to innocent civilian and using women and chilien as shield at the same time
    In Response

    by: Steve from: Manchester
    July 23, 2014 12:41 PM
    Jewish people have the determination to fight forever if that's the only way to hold ''their home land''. Probably the most ridiculous & misleading choice of words that could have been put at the end of that sentence. You mean the land stolen from the Palestinians in the first place.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    July 22, 2014 1:03 PM
    Who is winning the war - Israel or Hamas? Who has taken a prisoner of war with which to negotiate? This is all the more reason for Israel to put everything it has into the prosecution of this war and must remove Hamas from the jugular of the region. If Hamas is using foreign prison for its prisoners of war, then what purpose does Israel blockade of the Gaza Strip serve? This is a wake up call.

    I think Israel is appearing more disgraceful than I used to know it. After denying it, it is after all true, shame! The same sergeant Oron Shaul? Hamas initially gave that identification. Was it a defection? An arrangement so that Israel ends up releasing not just those it rounded up while searching for the three teens killed by Hamas, but also to awaken and release those it has killed during the ongoing campaign. Shame! Every time Hamas starts a fight, it targets capturing at least an Israeli soldier, and bingo! How could Israel keep falling into this same error always!

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    July 22, 2014 11:25 AM
    Israel destroyed 70 targets in Gaza, Hamas shoots 113 rockets into Israel: what has Israel achieved, and how does Hamas achieve the feat? This report, repeated so often, same old story, is very annoying. I don't understand Israel's prosecution of this campaign. It has incurred 29 deaths, and Hamas is still not as much as scratched, going by its ability to launch rockets into Israel and its obstinacy in trying to dictate the direction of flow of a truce or the lack of it. Is Israel still the Israel I used to know, or is there another?

    Why has Hamas' backbone still not broken? I can't believe that Israel means business to stop the rockets flying into Israel from Gaza, unless it has run out of wits. Mines or no mines, Israel is not in the category that Hamas should pose such a deterrent to. The world has expected a sweeping operation with military precision to once and for all time remove the backbone of Hamas resistance at a time when even bold-face supporters of Gaza look forward to an opportunity presented on a plata of gold to rid the region of the trouble called Hamas.

    It may not last forever, as some voices are rising demanding Israel play the key role in stopping the carnage due to its toil on civilian population, and some like Jordan and Turkey have run out of patience and pour venom like the snake they are to make wrong demands on the UN to condemn the innocent and set the guilty aggressor free. Summary is, if Israel has the capability, this is the time to show it by saving itself and its people this trouble by moving in with what it has to once and forever remove the threat of this Hamas aggression against the innocent and civilized Israeli people.
    In Response

    by: HZ from: USA
    July 23, 2014 1:19 AM
    The world media is the biggest enemy of Israel military. If the IDF didn't need to minimize civilian casualties, things can be much easier and faster. However that will bring a lot of pressure from some people who "care" about civilian casualties. Usually these people only care Pal civilian casualties. But anyway, these people will shout a lot and may change the opinion of the world.

    I personally think Israel's strategy is to slowly kill the Hamas. With all the measures like phone calls and text message before attack to minimize civilian casualties, the speed will be slow but look at the Syria war: after a month of showing numbers of civilian death, people are bored and the world media stopped showing the same headline for the whole month. And then, Hamas will lose its best weapon: the world media. And only by then, real progress can be made by Israel. So just be patient, after a few months, those people who care about civilian deaths will get bored again and go back to watch Justin Bieber's MV. Only when civilian deaths do no good to Hamas, the civilian casualties can really decrease.

    by: kafantaris from: Warren, Ohio
    July 22, 2014 11:01 AM
    This one-sided, unmatched, fight in Gaza is threatening to destabilize Egypt which just now saw some semblance of order. It is threatening to further destabilize the Middle East since there is not even a condemnation of Israel by the U.N. -- albeit one surely to be vetoed by us. Whatever good will we had the Middle East has gone up in smoke in our blind support of Israel. Indeed, our inaction is justifying even the brutality of Assad.
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