Israel’s Security Cabinet has unanimously rejected a US proposal for a temporary pause in Israel-Hamas fighting.
The proposal by Secretary of State John Kerry calls for a temporary truce during which Israel and Hamas would hold indirect talks about easing the border closure of the blockaded Gaza Strip. Hamas has demanded that Gaza’s crossings be opened.
Israel TV reports that Israel’s Security Cabinet – which groups top ministers on security issues – rejected the proposal in its current form, mainly because it would mean Israel has to cut short an ongoing effort to destroy Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border.
There was no immediate Israeli government comment.
Israel's 18-day military operation in the Gaza Strip has fuelled new unrest in the West Bank, where five Palestinians were killed during protests.
Earlier Israel’s military announced that an Israeli soldier whom Hamas had claimed to have captured in Gaza earlier this week was in fact killed in battle that day.
The capture of an Israeli soldier could have been a game changer in Israel-Hamas fighting and the international efforts to end it.
Mr Kerry, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon and Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shukri met twice in Cairo today to try to bring a week-long pause in the Israel-Hamas fighting, beginning as soon as this weekend.
Mr Kerry delayed his anticipated departure from Egypt for several hours to talk again by phone to Qatari officials who are serving as a go-between with Hamas, which the US considers a terrorist organisation and cannot negotiate with directly.
Over the last week, in his travels from Cairo to Ramallah to Israel, Mr Kerry has made clear that he wanted to secure at least a temporary pause in the violence before he returned to Washington. But US efforts have been frustrated by deeply-ingrained hostilities between Israel and Palestinian officials, and by mistrust among Middle East nations who have taken sides in the conflict even as they agree to push for a ceasefire.
The West Bank has become increasingly restive over Israel’s Gaza operation, in which more than 800 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,200 wounded since July 8, according to Palestinian health officials.
In the West Bank, protests against the Gaza operation operation erupted in the northern village of Hawara, near the city of Nablus, and the southern village of Beit Omar, near the city of Hebron.
Palestinian hospital officials said three Palestinians were killed in Beit Omar and two in Hawara.
Yesterday, thousands of Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces at a West Bank checkpoint and in east Jerusalem, the largest protests in those areas in several years.