Combined News Sources
Washington – An immediate and unconditional ceasefire ending Israel’s assault on Hamas is a “clear strategic imperative” to Israel, US President Barack Obama told Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in a phone call on Sunday.
While the conversation focused on the immediate concerns of the United States, the president also discussed the broader implications of the Gaza operation, Protective Edge, now over two weeks old and burdened with a mounting death toll, both within the Israel Defense Forces and the civilian population of Gaza.
Obama told Netanyahu he wants a ceasefire “that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza’s long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority,” the White House said, in a readout of the call to reporters.
For a permanent ceasefire to be agreed upon, Hamas is requiring an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, formed to prevent Hamas from obtaining weapons to attack the Jewish state.
Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni has told US Secretary of State John Kerry that Israel categorically rejects this condition, and indeed, Netanyahu’s cabinet has unanimously voted against the measure as part of an end to the current crisis.
Obama reiterated his belief that Israel has a right to defend itself, and condemned Hamas’ construction of tunnels and continuation of rocket fire into civilian areas.
“Ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza,” Obama expressed.
In a recent poll, over 85 percent of Israelis support the Israeli government continuing the military operation until Hamas’ tunnels into Israel are completely destroyed.
Earlier, despite agreeing to a 24-hour humanitarian truce that was to start at 2pm, Hamas fired several rockets at Israel after the declared time. Israel called off its own 24-hour truce earlier in the day after the Gaza-based terrorist organization fired rockets into southern and central Israel.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused Hamas of violating a ceasefire that it had itself called for and vowed that Israeli operations in Gaza would continue.
“They are violating their own ceasefire. Under these circumstances, Israel will do what it must do to defend its people,” Netanyahu told the news network CNN.
In a separate interview with CBS, Netanyahu said Israel would not allow “a ruthless terror organization… to decide when it’s convenient for them to stop for a moment, rearm, and continue firing on our citizens and our people.”
Meanwhile, rockets continued raining down on southern Israel. A rocket hit a house in Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, lightly wounding a woman who was hit by shrapnel. The Iron Dome intercepted 4 rockets over Kiryat Gat. Hamas’ armed wing took responsibilty for the rockets fired at Kiryat Gat, saying they were fired “because Israel violated the ceasefire.”
Four rockets were then fired at Be’er Sheva, one intercepted and four others hit open areas. A man was lightly wounded from shrapnel to his back.
Hamas Terrorists Fire Rockets from a Gazan School
“In response to UN intervention and considering the situation of our people and the occasion of Eid, it has been agreed among resistance factions to endorse a 24-hour humanitarian calm, starting from 2 pm on Sunday,” Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.
The UN envoy to the Middle East Process had sent Israel a request for a humanitarian ceasefire Sunday afternoon, after the IDF restarted its operations in the wake of the unilateral Israeli truce violated by Hamas.
Hamas Terrorists Fire a Rocket from a Graveyard
An Israeli source confirmed Serry’s request but emphasized that Hamas has to declare a ceasefire before the request would be considered. Israel has yet to respond to Hamas’ declaration.
After the designated 2pm start-time, when rockets failed to stop falling, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that “so far the humanitarian ceasefire hasn’t come into effect. When it does, we’ll announce it.”