Diplomatic moves towards a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict gathered pace on Thursday after U.S. President Joe Biden called for a de-escalation, but Israel kept up its bombardment of Gaza and Hamas rocket fire resumed after a pause.
A senior official in the Hamas militant group predicted a ceasefire within days. An Israeli minister said Israel would halt its offensive only when it had achieved its goals.
Rocket attacks on Israel stopped for eight hours on Thursday – the 11th day of hostilities – before resuming against communities near the Israel-Gaza border.
Israel kept up its airstrikes in Hamas-run Gaza, saying it wanted to deter the Islamist group from a future confrontation after the current conflict halted.
Since the fighting began on May 10, health officials in Gaza say 228 Palestinians have been killed in aerial bombardments that have worsened an already dire humanitarian situation.
Israeli authorities put the death toll to date at 12 in Israel, where repeated rocket attacks have caused panic and sent people rushing into shelters.
Biden on Wednesday urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek a “de-escalation”.
An Egyptian security source said the sides had agreed in principle to a ceasefire but details needed to be worked out.
A Hamas political official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said he believed the efforts to reach a ceasefire would succeed.
“I expect a ceasefire to be reached within a day or two, and the ceasefire will be on the basis of mutual agreement.”
Asked on Israel’s Kan public radio if a truce would begin on Friday, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said: “No. We are definitely seeing very significant international pressure… we will finish the operation when we decide we have attained our goals.”
Qatar-based Al Jazeera television reported that U.N. Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland was meeting Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar. (Reuters/NAN)
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