Dense smoke rises from Gaza city after Israeli bombardment on Jan.8, 2009. (Xinhua Photo) Photo Gallery>>>
by Deng Yushan
JERUSALEM, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Israel on Wednesday exhibited signs that it has put at least one of its feet on a path leading to the end of its contentious military operation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Dense smoke rises from Gaza city after Israeli bombardment on Jan. 8, 2009. (Xinhua Photo) Photo Gallery>>>
Israel's National Security Cabinet met on Wednesday
morning for discussions on whether to expand the ongoing offensive or opt for a
truce. Should the former be approved, Israel would possibly send tens of
thousands of reserve soldiers into Gaza to bash the Islamist movement.
Following hours of debate, the ministers voted to continue the current operation, reported local news service Ynet. No word was given on whether the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would reinforce its presence in the Palestinian enclave, although it has reportedly been prepared for such an extensive deployment.
Meanwhile, the IDF said unless under attack, it would
hold fire in the Gaza Strip for three hours every day starting Wednesday to
allow local residents to receive basic supplies. The respite, from1 p.m.(1100
GMT) to 4 p.m.(1400 GMT), would be subject to daily security assessment, added
Hamas, the target of the so-called Operation Cast
Lead which was launched on Dec. 27, has said it would also refrain from firing
rockets against the Jewish state during the three hours.
The daily temporary lull is part of a "humanitarian corridor" plan Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office announced earlier in the day. "This would entail opening geographic areas for certain periods of time during which the population would be able to equip itself and receive the assistance," said the office in a statement.
Gaza residents would also use the periods to repair
the damaged infrastructure, which UN officials said was on the brink of
breaking, as shortages of power and running water have been widely reported in
The measure indicated that although denying a
humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the Jewish state is bowing to international
pressure that has been mounting up over the desperate situation of some 1.5
million people in the devastated coastal strip.
UN and Palestinian officials have said the
impoverished and overcrowded land is already bracing for a worsening
humanitarian crisis due to shortages of food, fuel and medicine.
In another sign of a softening stance, Israel agreed
on Wednesday to conduct dialogues with Egypt over its proposal for a Gaza
ceasefire. "Israel views as positive the dialogue between Egyptian and Israeli
officials in order to advance these issues," said Olmert's office.
While stressing that Israel has not yet accepted the
initiative, Israel announced that Amos Gilad, chief of the Diplomatic-Security
Bureau of the Defense Ministry, will fly to Cairo on Thursday to discuss the
An old Palestinian walks in rubbles at
the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip Jan. 7, 2009.
(Xinhua/Wissam Nassar) Photo Gallery>>>
The Jewish state was seen most overtly inching toward
a ceasefire in a day that the White House, which backed Israel's Gaza operation,
said there is an urgent need to reach a durable truce agreement to end the
bloodshed, while insisting that Hamas must first stop firing rockets at Israel.
Although Israeli officials have said Hamas has
sustained significant damage, Gazan militants on Wednesday continued to pummel
southern Israel with rockets, a situation Israel vowed to end by this operation.
Yet notably, the frequency of such attacks are declining.
Over 700 have been killed and some 3,000 others
wounded in Gaza during the 12-day-old onslaught, and the death toll is certain
to rise further. On the Israeli side, 10 have been killed so far, including six
soldiers fallen in the battlefield.
CAIRO, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas was scheduled to visit Egypt on Jan. 9 for talks with his Egyptian
counterpart Hosni Mubarak in a bid to put an end to the ongoing Israeli attacks
against the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian Ambassador in Cairo Nabil Amr said Abbas will
post Mubarak the result of his recent contacts with the UN and the U.S.
administration on the Gaza situation, the Egyptian MENA news agency reported. Full story
WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- The United States calls for an urgent
ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group of Hamas in the Gaza
Strip, the White House said on Wednesday. Full story
GAZA, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Israeli army continued military air and ground
offensives on Wednesday on the Gaza Strip for the 12th consecutive day, leaving
24 Palestinians dead during the day, medical workers and residents said.
Emergency chief Mo'aweya Hassanein told reporters that 24 Palestinians were
killed on Wednesday, including ten killed in separate airstrikes and six died of
their wounds sustained from Tuesday. Full story