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Israel holds off on escalating Gaza barrage; West wants truce



(Reuters) - Israel appeared to hold off on a threatened escalation of its week-old Gaza Strip barrage on Monday despite balking at Western calls for a ceasefire with an equally defiant Hamas.

On Sunday, the Israeli military had warned residents of the northern border town of Beit Lahiya to leave or risk their lives when, after nightfall, it planned to intensify air strikes against suspected Palestinian rocket sites among civilian homes.

A U.N. aid agency said around a quarter of Beit Lahiya's 70,000 residents fled, fearing Israeli attacks which, according to Gaza officials, have killed more than 166 people, most of them non-combatants, since the cross-border shelling war began.

But other than a lone air strike on farmland outside the town, which the Palestinians said caused no casualties, Beit Lahiya was largely quiet in the early hours of Monday. Israel said one rocket was fired from Gaza without inflicting damage.

There have been more than 940 such launches by Gaza's dominant Hamas and other factions in the past week, Israel says.

It has not suffered fatalities, due in part to the success of its Iron Dome rocket interceptors, but the salvoes have disrupted life in major cities, paralyzed vulnerable southern towns and triggered Israeli mobilization of troops for a possible Gaza invasion if the air campaign failed to curb Hamas.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, whose bid to broker a wider peace deal collapsed in April when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called off negotiations with Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over his power-share with Islamist Hamas, offered on Sunday to help secure a Gaza truce.

The call was echoed by France and by Germany, which will send its foreign minister to the region on Monday. But with the United States and European Union, like Israel, shunning Hamas as a terrorist group, Middle Eastern intermediaries were mooted.

A U.S. official said that Kerry, in a phone conversation with Netanyahu, "described his engagement with leaders in the region to help to stop the rocket fire so calm can be restored and civilian casualties prevented, and underscored the United States' readiness to facilitate a cessation of hostilities, including a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement".

MEDIATION

That referred to an Egyptian-mediated accord that doused the last big Gaza flare-up. Cairo is now again seeking calm. Hamas, said it also received U.S. overtures through Abbas and Qatar. Turkey has sought to intercede as well, Israeli media said.

Netanyahu's spokesman declined to discuss the conversation with Kerry. Another Israeli official played down the truce talk.

"We are not considering this-or-that proposal," the official, who declined to be named, said late on Sunday.

While allowing that a diplomatic solution could eventually be found, the official said Israel would, for now, pursue its military offensive "to restore quiet over a protracted period by inflicting significant damage to Hamas and the other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip".

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the second-most potent Gaza faction, made clear they would not accept a mere "calm for calm" where both Palestinian fighters and Israeli forces stand down.

"Netanyahu began this crazy war and he must end his war first," Hamas leader Izzat Al-Reshiq told Al-Arabiya television.

"There can be no ceasefire unless the conditions of the Resistance are met," he added, saying Israel had to stop blockading Gaza and free hundreds of Palestinians it rounded up in the occupied West Bank last month while searching for three Jewish seminary students who it said were kidnapped by Hamas.

Rocket fire from Gaza had increased during the West Bank dragnet. Tensions were further inflamed when the three teens' bodies were discovered, after which suspected Israeli avengers abducted and killed a Palestinian youth from East Jerusalem.

Hamas neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the West Bank kidnappings, which came as it struggled to parlay the unity deal with Abbas into economic relief for Gaza, whose other border with Egypt has been sealed off by a Cairo government that considers the Palestinian Islamists a security threat.

Islamic Jihad welcomed Egypt's intercession.

"There can be no settlement or mediation without an esteemed Egyptian role in compelling the (Israeli) enemy to cease fire," the group's leader, Ramadan Shallah, told Al Jazeera. He added that "the battle will not end unless the (Gaza) siege is ended".

The Gaza Health Ministry said at least 166 Palestinians - among them about 138 civilians, including 30 children - have died during six days of warfare, and more than 1,000 wounded.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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albatroll July 14 2014 at 4:43 AM

Our first mulsim pig screwing president and his mouth piece john spineless kerry will wring their hands and talk about supporting Israel while knifing them in the back. islam is not a religion. It is a political system. It needs to be destroyed.

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3 replies
windyoak July 14 2014 at 4:06 AM

I cannot believe in a million years, that, Israel will bow to world opinion and or.call a truce until they destroy hamas once and for all.....A TRUCE TO STOP ISRAELI ATTACK ON HAMAS WILL BE THE GREATEST BLUNDER IN ISRAEL'S HISTORY.....why>? BECAUSE IRAN WILL SHIP MORE SOPHISTICATED ROCKETS AND MISSILES...AND..HAMAS WILL AS OTHER ARAB NATIONS HAVE DONE...ATTACK ISRAEL ON YOM KIPOUR....this time there wont be any immobilization of tanks and soldiers that can be seen in the Sinai....this time hamas WILL STRIKE WHEN ISRAEL'S GUARD IS DOWN....YES SHE WILL WIN AT THE END..BUT WITH A HIGH COST OF ISRAELI LIVES.....Israelis are no fools, they are aware of the U.N. Latin countries and most of the world WANTS HER DESTRUCTION......

TRUCE????? REALLY ???? for the idiots that are siding with hamas.the facts are...HAMAS'S GREAT WEAPON ARE NOT MISSILES..THEIR WEAPON?. ARE THE POPULATION ITSELF......

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2 replies
Wendy windyoak July 14 2014 at 10:51 AM

I wouldn't bet that Israel will ever have her guard down.

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Hi Bob windyoak July 14 2014 at 5:09 PM

Vin you are wrong. Most free non-muslim nations are sympathetic towards Israel at this time. It is the muslim nations who want her destruction.

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windyoak July 14 2014 at 4:17 AM

ARE PEOPLE AWARE THAT THE BBC.INVESTIGATED MANY PHOTOGRAPHS THE PALESTINIANS PRINT IN THEIR NEWSPAPER..ARE CHILDREN KILLED IN SYRIA..THEN SHOWN TO THE WORLD AS ISRAELIS THAT KILLED THEM ....PHOTOS FROM 2008 ARE USED AND SHOWN FROM SYRIA.THEY CLAIM THESE ARE CHILDREN THAT DIES YESTERDAY FROM ISRAELI ATTACKS

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2 replies
scubaeqhp windyoak July 14 2014 at 2:54 PM

Really? Prove it. Cite an unbiased source.

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glencove windyoak July 14 2014 at 10:28 PM

They have been doing this for years.They are the biggest liars in the world. Sadly,lying to spread IsL
ISLAM is PART of their religion.

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windyoak July 14 2014 at 4:22 AM

incase people are not aware of Hamas's weapon.......no other country on earth use it......it's called...THE POPULATION......THAT'S HAMAS WEAPONS.....

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GaryNPS July 14 2014 at 10:21 AM

Why stop the attacks? This will continue, again and again, over and over, until Israel destroys Hamas, their supporters and those who hide them.

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snrar July 14 2014 at 10:49 AM

There will be a cease fire but rest assured it will not because of John Kerry or any effort by the United States . The USA is not a factor in any meetings as Israel knows that this White House is not a friend and simply USA leadership role is mute at this point as they have shown that they can not be trusted !

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1 reply
mrjoeped snrar July 14 2014 at 12:22 PM

The Iron Dome missile system was sent to Israel by the US under President Obama's direction. It has been spectacularly successful in rendering most of Hamas' rocket attacks harmless. Not one Israeli killed after over nine hundred attacks. This is factual as compared to your post which is a contemptible lie.

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windyoak July 14 2014 at 4:12 AM

A scenario for all the people......A GUNMAN IS HOLDING 2 KIDS IN HIS ARMS WHILE THROWING GRENADES ON COPS.....question is..AFTER SO MANY DEAD COPS...WILL THE COPS SHOOT? OR ALLOW THEMSELVES TO BE KILLED OVER 2 KIDS? THIS IS HAMAS'S TECHNIQUE.....can anyone answer? IF YOU ARE AMONG THE COPS THAT'S BEING BLOWN BY GRENADES...WILL YOU SHOOT?

Flag Reply +8 rate up
2 replies
ace windyoak July 14 2014 at 12:31 PM

I would shoot before the first Grenade. Death to hamas

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donpantanella windyoak July 14 2014 at 4:29 PM

@VIN, we all have heard that old story over and over again, if you disagree with Obama you are "racist".

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Dp Cx July 14 2014 at 12:07 PM

they herd peoepl onto roofs as human shields ,, they hide weapons in homes schools hospitals ,, who cares ,, its their choice

i endorse israels right to defend itself 110% and i dont care what or where they bomb

the peace loving Palestinians targeting a nuclear plant with rockets shows their intentions quite clearly

Flag Reply +6 rate up
2 replies
donpantanella Dp Cx July 14 2014 at 4:31 PM

@VIN, sounds like you are living in the wrong country.

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Hi Bob Dp Cx July 14 2014 at 5:14 PM

Sounds as if Vin is either a good muslim or studying to be one.

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bjredmond64 July 14 2014 at 11:13 AM

stop islum. they are evil in the yes of God. Israel is God's chosen. All power to Israel. keep praying for isreal.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
kevin.williams79 July 14 2014 at 12:50 PM

Israel is dealing here with out and out murderers. The faster it eliminate Hamas the safer we'll all be.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
2 replies
donpantanella kevin.williams79 July 14 2014 at 4:33 PM

@VIN...can you remember who sent the first rocket into which country? Try not to hurt your tiny little brain thinking about this question.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Hi Bob kevin.williams79 July 14 2014 at 5:19 PM

Your numbers are a bit off Vin. Last I looked it was 253 Palstinians killed. So if Israel kills another 747 before 1 Israeli is killed it will come out even. However if Israel succeeds in killing 10,000 it will not be enough.

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