Gaza violence continues amid push for truce

More than a dozen killed in the Palestinian enclave as US secretary of state and UN chief call for end to violence.

    Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have continued, as diplomatic efforts are under way to secure a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Palestinian enclave.

    At least a dozen people were killed in Gaza on Wednesday, according to medical officials, bringing the death toll to a total of 149 since Israel's military operation was launched eight days ago. A two-year-old boy was among those killed.

    Israel struck more than 100 targets, including a cluster of Hamas government buildings.

    Meanwhile, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN chief Ban Ki-moon in Cairo to discuss the crisis.

    Ban told reporters that there were "many details to work out" before truce agreement could be reached.

    "I am particularly concerned about the spiral of violence at the time of intense efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and
    Israel," Ban said after meeting Morsi.

    He condemned an attack on a bus in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv that wounded 24 people on Wednesday and said it "makes it all the more urgent to reach an immediate ceasefire".

    Clinton and Ban have been shuttling between Egypt, Israel and the occupied West Bank in a bid to bolster a proposed ceasefire agreement that Cairo brokered between Israel and the Hamas movement that controls the Gaza Strip.

    Members of Hamas have been locked in talks with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo to discuss the terms of the truce.

    "Hamas is now waiting to see what message the Egyptian intelligence officials will have after Morsi's meeting with Clinton," a source close to the talks told the AFP news agency.

    'Heartfelt concern'

    Clinton arrived earlier in the day from Israel where she held a second round of talks on Wednesday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu after travelling to the West Bank city of Ramallah for a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader.

    In their talks, Clinton thanked Abbas for encouraging a restoration of calm and expressed "heartfelt concern for innocent lives lost" on both sides, Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the state department, said.

    "The secretary indicated that we were working to support ongoing efforts to defuse the crisis, especially Egyptian-Israeli conversations," Nuland said in a statement issued in Washington.

    Five Israelis have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza since November 14. Israel says it launched its offensive on Gaza to prevent fighters from firing missiles into its territory.

    Palestinians fighters fired more than 30 rockets at Israel on Wednesday, causing no casualties, and the anti-missile system, the so-called Iron Dome, shot down 14 of them, police said.

    During her meeting with Binyamin, Clinton praised Morsi's "personal leadership and Egypt's efforts thus far" to end the Gaza conflict and promote regional stability.

    "As a regional leader and neighbour, Egypt has the opportunity and responsibility to continue playing a crucial and constructive role in this process," she said, pledging to work for a truce "in the days ahead".

    Netanyahu told Clinton he wanted a "long-term" solution, warning that if this failed, he would step up the military campaign to silence Hamas' rockets.

    "A band-aid solution will only cause another round of violence," said Ofir Gendelman, a Netanyahu spokesman.

    Nearly 1,400 rockets have been fired into Israel since the military offensive began, according to the Israeli military. Israel has carried out more than 1,500 strikes on Gaza during the same time period.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera And Agencies


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