Egypt proposes ceasefire in Israel-Hamas conflict
Proposal comes as Israel shoots down Hamas drone, fends off rockets from Lebanon
Egypt presented a ceasefire plan Monday to end a week of heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip that has left at least 185 people dead.
The proposal marked the most serious attempt yet by international mediators to end the conflict. A senior Hamas official said the group was open to the plan. Israel had no immediate reaction, but local media quoted officials as saying the government was considering it seriously.
According to an Israeli official, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene his decision-making security cabinet on Tuesday to discuss the ceasefire.
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The official seemed to put a positive face on the proposed truce, saying that Israel's week-old offensive in the Gaza Strip had weakened the Islamist Hamas group militarily.
Israel is demanding guarantees of an extended period of quiet, while Hamas seeks an easing of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Earlier, the Israeli military said it downed a drone launched by Hamas militants in Gaza on Monday, the first time it encountered an unmanned aircraft since the start of its offensive last week.
1,300 airstrikes and 1,000 rockets
Israel began its campaign against Hamas militants in Gaza last Tuesday, saying it was responding to heavy rocket fire from the densely populated territory. The military says it has launched more than 1,300 airstrikes since then, while Hamas militants have launched nearly 1,000 rockets at Israel.
The outbreak of violence followed the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month and the subsequent kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent revenge attack as well as Israeli raids against Hamas militants and infrastructure in the West Bank.
Rosenfeld initially said the three had been charged in the killing but later corrected his statement to say they had been ordered held until Friday.
Four others were being investigated and remained under house arrest for their involvement in the killing.
Abu Khdeir was taken on July 2 near his home in east Jerusalem, and his charred body was later found in a forest. An autopsy found that he was burned to death.
Israeli leaders widely condemned the killing, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed those responsible would be brought to justice.
Israel has yet to capture the killers of the three Israel teenagers. It accuses Hamas of being behind the crime and cracked down on the Islamic militants in the West Bank after the teens' abduction. That, in turn, led to an increase in rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza and sparked the current round of fighting.
3 drones launched, Hamas claims
Meanwhile, two Israeli airstrikes struck the southern Gaza City of Khan Younis on Monday, killing four Palestinians, according to officials from the city's European Hospital.
The officials said Saddam Moamar, his wife Hanadai, and his father Mousa were killed by an airstrike that hit their house. Their neighbour, Maher Abu Mor, was killed in another airstrike while standing on the rooftop of his home, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.
It was not immediately clear why their homes were targeted.
No Israelis have been killed as a result of Hamas rocket launches, in large part thanks to the success of Israeli military's Iron Dome air defence system in intercepting the missiles. Several people have been wounded, however, including a teenage boy who was seriously injured by rocket shrapnel on Sunday.
The Israeli military said the drone launched from Gaza on Monday was shot down in mid-flight by a Patriot surface-to-air missile along the southern Israeli coastline, near the city of Ashdod. In a statement to media, Hamas claimed it launched three drones at Israel on Monday, though the military insisted there was only one.
Hamas said it has developed two types of drones — one for intelligence gathering, and one for delivering munitions. It also said it lost contact with one of the drones and that the targets included the Israeli Defence Ministry compound in Tel Aviv.
It was the first time the militant group publicly acknowledged it has drones in its arsenal.
Rockets fired from Lebanon
It's not clear why the drone was sent into Israel, "whether it had explosives or whether it was a surveillance drone," said CBC's Saša Petricic from Jerusalem. Israel is now looking for the wreckage to determine the drone's purpose.
Since the latest fighting began last Tuesday, militants have fired nearly 1,000 rockets at Israel, causing some injuries and damage to property, but no fatalities among Israelis. By contrast, 172 Palestinians have died as a result of Israel's air attacks.
The use of drones with an offensive capacity could potentially inflict significant casualties — something the rockets from Gaza have failed to do, largely because of the success of the military's Iron Dome air defence system in shooting them down.
"Hamas is trying everything it can to produce some kind of achievement and it is crucial that we maintain our high state of readiness," Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said. "The shooting down of a drone this morning by our air defence system is an example of their efforts to strike at us in any way possible."
Also Monday, rockets were fired at Israel from southern Lebanon, reported Reuters, drawing retaliatory artillery fire from Israeli forces, Lebanese security officials and the Israeli army said, in the third such rocket attack from Lebanon since Friday.
An Israeli police spokeswoman said there was no immediate word of damage or casualties from the rocket fire. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Israeli military spokesman Brig.-Gen. Motti Almoz linked the Lebanon rockets to the Gaza fighting. "Some on the other side are trying to heat up the border. We were not surprised by it, we prepared for it, we knew the Gaza fighting could affect other areas too," he told Army Radio.
No injuries have been reported as a result of the three incidents across the Lebanese-Israeli frontier since Friday.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the current Israel operation could last for "a long time" and the military was prepared "for all possibilities." That includes a wide-ranging Gaza ground operation, which would likely cause heavy casualties in the coastal strip.
Israel warned northern Gaza residents it would start an intense bombing campaign sometime Sunday afternoon, said Petricic. However, this has not yet materialized. There were bombings and some people were injured overnight, he said, but it was "not the kind of intensity that has been expected."
Hamas has sent signals it may be ready to consider a ceasefire but appears to be waiting for some tangible military or diplomatic achievement before moving ahead on that front. For his part, Netanyahu wants to show the Israeli public that he has succeeded in significantly degrading Hamas's ability to strike at its Israeli targets before moving ahead diplomatically.
It may be difficult to broker a ceasefire, said Petricic, as "what both sides are looking for seems unbridgeable."
The French and German foreign ministers are in Israel, he said. The Americans have also offered to help broker a ceasefire through Secretary of State John Kerry.
But, "frankly, it would have to be somebody in the region that has contacts with Hamas," said Petricic, rather than a country that considers it a militant or terrorist organization.
Turkey or Qatar may have contacts with Hamas, he said, but neither has expressed much interest in being involved.
Also Monday, a 21-year-old Palestinian was killed during confrontations with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Samoa, near Hebron, Palestinian health officials said. Residents of the village said soldiers opened fire at a group of Palestinians who were throwing stones at them. The officials and the villagers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.
The Israeli army confirmed the death and said it was looking into the incident.
Rocket fire 'terrorist acts,' says PM Harper
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is calling on the international community to step up its condemnation of Hamas for its rocket attacks on Israel.
"The indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel are terrorist acts, for which there is no justification," Harper said in a statement issued yesterday.
Hamas is deliberately using residents of Gaza as human shields, placing them in the path of Israeli strikes, Harper said.
He called on Canada's allies and partners to "recognize that these terrorist acts are unacceptable and that solidarity with Israel is the best way of stopping the conflict."
The Israeli military warned people in northern Gaza to relocate, and those with dual passports, including about 60 Palestinian-Canadians, could leave the area, said CBC's Paul Hunter from the border crossing into Israel.
About 47 Canadian citizens and their family members arrived in Jordan from Gaza, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular) Lynn Yelich said in a statement on Sunday.
Some of those people will continue into Canada, said Hunter.
With files from CBC News, Reuters