November 17, 2012

Israel pounds Gaza with 300 airstrikes

Diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire gain momentum, even as Israel appears poised to launch a ground offensive against Hamas.

By IBRAHIM BARZAK and JOSEF FEDERMAN The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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An explosion rises from an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Saturday. Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip with at least 300 airstrikes Saturday.

The Associated Press

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Israel has vowed to stage a ground invasion, a scenario that would bring the scale of fighting closer to that of a war four years ago.

Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak has authorized the emergency call-up of up to 75,000 reserve troops ahead of a possible ground offensive. Israel has massed thousands of troops and dozens of tanks and armored vehicles along the border in recent days.

Egypt, which is led by Hamas' parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, has been spearheading efforts to forge a cease-fire. Morsi has vowed to stand strong with the people of Gaza and this week recalled Cairo's ambassador from Israel to protest the offensive.

Quietly, though, non-Muslim Brotherhood members in Morsi's government are said to be pushing Hamas to end its rocket fire on Israel. Morsi is under pressure not to go too far and risk straining ties with Israel's ally, the United States.

The Hamas website said Saturday that its leader, Khaled Meshaal, met with the head of Egyptian intelligence for two hours Saturday in Cairo, a day after the Egyptian official was in the Gaza Strip trying to work out an end to the escalation in violence.

Hamas has not immediately accepted Egypt's proposal for a cease-fire, but the group's website said it could end its rocket fire if Israel agrees to end "all acts of aggression and assassination" and lift its five-year Israeli blockade on Gaza. Egypt will present the Hamas position to Israeli officials.

Israeli officials say they are not interested in a "timeout," and want firm guarantees that the rocket fire, which has paralyzed life in an area home to 1 million Israelis, finally ends. Past cease-fires have been short lived.

Morsi warned that a ground operation by Israel will have "repercussions" across the region. "All must realize the situation is different than before, and the people of the region now are different than before and the leaders are different than before," he said at a joint news conference with Turkey's Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan, like Morsi, leads an Islamist government that has chilly diplomatic ties with Israel.

 

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