Gaza truce pressure builds as death toll passes 100
International pressure for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip puts Egypt’s new Islamist president in the spotlight after a sixth day of Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket fire that have killed over 100 people.
Israel’s leaders weighed the benefits and risks of sending tanks and infantry into the densely populated coastal enclave two months before an Israeli election, and indicated they would prefer a diplomatic path backed by world powers, including US President Barack Obama, the European Union and Russia.
Any such solution may pass through Egypt, Gaza’s other neighbour and the biggest Arab nation, where the ousting of US ally Hosni Mubarak and election of President Mohamed Mursi is part of a dramatic reshaping of the Middle East, wrought by the Arab Spring and now affecting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mursi, whose Muslim Brotherhood was mentor to the founders of Hamas, took a call from Obama yesterday telling him the group must stop rocket fire into Israel – effectively endorsing Israel’s stated aim in launching the offensive last week.
Obama, as quoted by the White House, also said he regretted civilian deaths – which have been predominantly among the Palestinians.
“The two leaders discussed ways to de-escalate the situation in Gaza, and President Obama underscored the necessity of Hamas ending rocket fire into Israel,” the White House said.
“President Obama then called Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and received an update on the situation in Gaza and Israel. In both calls, President Obama expressed regret for the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives.”
Three Israelis and 108 Palestinians have been killed. Gaza officials say over half of those killed in the enclave were civilians, 27 of them children.