Israel rejects ceasefire plan, source says, as death toll nears 850
(Reuters) – Israel has rejected international proposals for a ceasefire in its fight against Islamist militants in Gaza, a government source said on Friday, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said no formal proposals had yet been put forward.
Mediators hope that a truce could come into force ahead of a Muslim festival that starts early next week, but they have struggled to resolve seemingly irreconcilable demands from Israel and Hamas-led fighters, locked in conflict since July 8.
As diplomacy faltered, the fighting raged on.
Gaza officials said Israeli strikes killed 55 people on Friday, including the head of media operations for Hamas ally Islamic Jihad and his son. They put the number of Palestinian deaths in 18 days of conflict at 844, most of them civilians.
Militants fired a barrage of rockets out of Gaza, triggering sirens across much of southern and central Israel, including at the country’s main airport. No injuries were reported, with the Iron Dome interceptor system knocking out many of the missiles.
Speaking in Cairo, Kerry told reporters that, although Israel may have rejected some language in a truce proposal draft, there “was no formal proposal, or final proposal, or proposal ready (for) a vote submitted to Israel”.
The top U.S. diplomat said there were still disagreements on the terminology, but he was confident there was a framework that would ultimately succeed and that “serious progress” had been made, although there was more work to do.
The search for a breakthrough will continue in Paris on Saturday when France hosts diplomats from the United States, Britain, Germany, Italy, the European Union, Turkey and Qatar, a French diplomatic source said.
“We are working toward a brief seven days of peace. Seven days of a humanitarian ceasefire in honour of Eid in order to be able to bring people together to try to work to create a more durable, sustainable ceasefire for the long (term),” Kerry said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at the same news conference, threw his weight behind a seven-day humanitarian truce, saying it could start with an extendable 12-hour stoppage.
A U.S. official said later that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Kerry Israel would begin a 12-hour pause in Gaza hostilities starting at 7 a.m. Israeli time (0400 GMT) on Saturday. Israel did not comment on the report.