Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened the forum of nine leading ministers Monday night to discuss the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire that would end Operation Pillar of Defense against terrorists in Gaza. Israel has agreed not to launch a ground offensive until the negotiations are exhausted.

The Al-Arabiya network reported that a ceasefire may go into effect within 24 hours. It said Israeli officials who are taking part in the talks in Cairo have returned to Israel for consultations.

The rocket fire on Israel persisted on Monday, as did Israeli airstrikes on terror targets throughout the Gaza Strip. The attacks on Israel resumed at around midnight, with air raid sirens sounding in Ofakim and the Eshkol Regional Council. The rockets fired at Ofakim landed in open areas. There were no reports of injury or damage.

A Qassam rocket fired on the Eshkol Regional Council damaged a public building and a vehicle. Later, five rockets fired toward Beersheba and the Merhavim Regional Council all landed in open areas. There were no reports of injury or damage.

Palestinian sources in Gaza reported late Monday that two children and their father were killed in an IDF attack on their home in Beit Lahia, located in the northern part of the coastal enclave. Eyewitnesses said Israeli aircraft fired a number of missiles at the house and leveled it.

At least 135 rockets were fired at Israel Monday, with nearly 70 landing in Israeli territory. More than 660 rockets have hit Israel since Operation Pillar of Defense was launched last week.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama called Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi on Monday to discuss the ongoing violence in the Middle East.

The White House said Obama and Morsi discussed ways to de-escalate the situation in Gaza. And Obama underscored the need for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel.

In a statement, the White House said Obama also expressed regret for the deaths of Israeli and Palestinian civilians in his calls with both leaders.

The six-day offensive has resulted in at least 100 Palestinian deaths and three deaths on the Israeli side.

Also Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Cairo to support Morsi’s efforts to mediate a truce. Ban is scheduled to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah this week for talks with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the crisis in Gaza.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday called for an “urgent de-escalation and cessation of hostilities” between Gaza and Israel, urging an immediate end to all attacks.

“The European Union expresses grave concern about the situation in Gaza and Israel and deeply regrets the loss of civilian life on both sides. All attacks must end immediately as they cause unjustifiable suffering of innocent civilians. It therefore calls for an urgent de-escalation and cessation of hostilities,” the Foreign Affairs Council said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle. Lieberman expressed his appreciation for the EU foreign ministers’ support of Israel’s right to defend itself, adding that Israel would continue to apply pressure on the Palestinian terror groups until the citizens of Israel are safe. Westerwelle said Israel has every right to defend itself, adding that the EU ministers are trying to prevent further escalation and promote a ceasefire.

Senator John McCain suggested that the White House send former President Bill Clinton to mediate between Israelis and Palestinians.

Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” to discuss turmoil in Israel and Gaza, McCain argued that “the United States should obviously be as heavily influential as they can” and that the best way to do that is to have someone like Clinton, “a person of enormous prestige and influence,” negotiate peace there.

Source: Ynet News


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