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Israel accepts cease-fire to end Gaza conflict; Hamas calls proposal unacceptable

BREAKING UPDATE - 2:38AM EST:

Updated at Jul 15, 2:57 AM EDT:

Hamas rejects Egypt proposal for truce with Israel

By KARIN LAUB and PETER ENAV

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Hamas rejected an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel on Tuesday, moments after the Israeli Cabinet accepted the plan, throwing into disarray international efforts to end a week of fighting that has killed 192 Palestinians and exposed millions of Israelis to Hamas rocket fire.

A senior Israeli government official warned that Israel would strike Gaza even harder if Hamas does not accept the truce.

Hamas On Rejecting Cease-Fire: 'It Is Not Worth The Ink'

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against targets in Gaza in the past week and amassed troops on the border of the coastal strip, but has so far refrained from a ground offensive that could quickly drive up the casualty count on both sides.

The Egyptian cease-fire offer, which was presented late Monday, called for a halt of hostilities as of Tuesday morning, followed by negotiations on easing the closure of Gaza's borders - a closure that has been enforced by both Israel and Egypt to varying degrees since Hamas seized the territory in 2007.

A group of senior Israeli Cabinet ministers accepted the offer on Tuesday, according to a statement by the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A senior government official told The Associated Press after the announcement that Israel would step up its military offensive if Hamas rejects the offer.

"As you know, the Cabinet has accepted the Egyptian proposal. If Hamas rejects it, Israel will continue and intensify its operations and Hamas will find itself totally isolated, including in the Arab world, which supports the proposal," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the Egyptian proposal was "not acceptable."

The military wing of Hamas, Izzedine al-Qassam, said in a statement on the Hamas website that the proposal "does not deserve the ink it was written with."

Hamas officials are weary of promises by Egypt and Israel to ease the border blockade. Such promises were also part of a truce that ended more than a week of fighting in 2012, but were quickly broken as violence flared again.

"It's not logical to ask people who are under aggression to cease fire and then later to negotiate terms that were not respected in the past by the Israelis," he said, referring to the 2012 truce.

An easing of the blockade is key to the survival of Hamas. Before the outbreak of the latest round of fighting, the militant group found itself in a serious financial crisis because a particularly tight closure by Egypt had prevented cash and goods from coming into the strip through hundreds of smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Vienna for negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, decided not to make an immediate trip to the Middle East on Tuesday to push diplomatic efforts toward the Israel-Hamas cease-fire.

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July 14, 6:21 PM:

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The Israeli Cabinet has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire to end a week of conflict with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip that has killed 185 Palestinians and exposed millions of Israelis to Hamas rocket fire.

The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Cabinet met on Tuesday morning and accepted the proposal, which went into effect at 9 a.m.

It calls for a cease-fire to begin within 12 hours of "unconditional acceptance" by the sides, followed by the opening of Gaza's border crossings and talks in Cairo within two days.

Hamas has acknowledged "diplomatic movement" on ending the conflict without yet formally accepting the proposal.

Israel launched the offensive last Tuesday, saying it was responding to weeks of rocket fire out of the Hamas-ruled territory.

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(AP) Egypt presented a cease-fire plan Monday to end a week of heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip that has left at least 185 people dead, and both sides said they were seriously considering the proposal.

The late-night offer by Egypt marked the first sign of a breakthrough in international efforts to end the conflict.

Hamas' top leader in Gaza confirmed there was "diplomatic movement," while Israel's policy-making Security Cabinet was set to discuss the proposal early Tuesday. Arab foreign ministers discussed the plan Monday night at an emergency meeting in Cairo, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was expected in the region Tuesday.

Egypt's Foreign Ministry announced the three-step plan starting at 9 a.m. (0600 GMT, 2 a.m. EDT) with a cease-fire to go into effect within 12 hours of "unconditional acceptance" by the two sides. That would be followed by the opening of Gaza's border crossings and talks in Cairo between the sides within two days, according to the statement.

Gaza's crossings should be opened for people and goods "once the security situation becomes stable," according to a copy of the proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

President Barack Obama praised Egypt's proposal, telling Muslim-Americans that he's hopeful the plan can restore calm.

"We're going to continue to do everything we can to facilitate a return to the 2012 cease-fire," Obama said at a White House dinner Monday night celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. "We are encouraged that Egypt has made a proposal to accomplish that goal."

Israel launched the offensive July 8, saying it was a response to weeks of heavy rocket fire out of Hamas-ruled Gaza. The Health Ministry in Gaza said 185 people, including dozens of civilians, have been killed, and more than 1,000 people wounded.

There have been no Israelis killed, although several have been wounded by rocket shrapnel, including two sisters, ages 11 and 13, who were seriously hurt Monday. Ahead of the Egyptian announcement, there appeared to be no slowdown in the fighting, with Hamas for the first time launching an unmanned drone into Israeli airspace that was shot down.

The Israeli military said 3 rockets were fired at the southern city of Eilat early Tuesday morning, lightly injuring two people and sparking a fire. The military said it did not immediately know who was behind the rocket fire. Previous rocket attacks on Eilat were from radical Islamic militants in the neighboring Sinai Peninsula.

The violence followed the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month, as well as the subsequent kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent revenge attack, along with Israeli raids against Hamas militants and infrastructure in the West Bank.

Israeli officials have said the goal of the military campaign is to restore quiet to Israel's south, which has absorbed hundreds of rocket strikes, and that any cease-fire would have to include guarantees of an extended period of calm.

Hamas officials say they will not accept "calm for calm." The group is demanding an easing of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has ground Gaza's economy to a standstill and that Israel release dozens of prisoners who were arrested in a recent West Bank crackdown following the abductions of the Israeli youths.

With the death toll mounting, both sides have come under increasing international pressure to halt the fighting.

Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said there is "no alternative but return to the truce" of November 2012, and added that Egypt contacted all the parties, including the Palestinian leadership, different Palestinian factions, and Israeli authorities in addition to Arab and international parties. Such contacts led to shaping up the proposal which called for cease-fire.

"Egypt stresses the international responsibility toward what is happening in Palestine," he said.

In a speech broadcast on Al-Jazeera, Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader in Gaza, confirmed there was "diplomatic movement."

"The problem is not going back to the agreement on calm because we want this aggression to stop," he said. "The siege must stop and Gaza people need to live in dignity."

An Israeli official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would convene his Security Cabinet on Tuesday morning to discuss the proposal. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Naftali Bennett, a member of the Security Cabinet, said he would oppose the proposal, calling it "good for Hamas and bad for Israel."

"A cease-fire at the present time shows the government's weakness," he said in a statement. "A cease-fire now will create a bigger campaign against the south of the country and more rocket attacks in another year."

Egypt, the first Arab state to reach peace with Israel, often serves as a mediator between Israel and Hamas.

In the 2012 fighting, Egypt's then-President Mohammed Morsi brokered a cease-fire, leveraging the influence his Muslim Brotherhood held with Hamas, its ally.

That deal included pledges to ease the blockade - promises that Hamas says were never kept. The blockade has greatly restricted movement through Gaza's Rafah crossing with Egypt - the territory's main gateway to the outside world - while Israel has restricted the flow of many goods, particularly much-needed construction materials, into Gaza. Israel says Hamas can use things like metal and concrete for military purposes.

Hamas has seen its position further weakened by last year's military coup in Egypt that ousted Morsi. Egypt's new leaders have cracked down on Hamas by nearly shuttering a network of smuggling tunnels along the border that were Hamas' key economic lifeline - and supply route for its weapons.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 from the rival forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. With the economy stagnant and Hamas unable to pay the salaries of its thousands of civil servants, the group recently agreed to back a unity government under Abbas' leadership. But Hamas remains in firm control of Gaza.

Israel and Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by the West, have battled many times. In the latest round, Israel carried out more than 1,300 airstrikes, along with attacks by naval gunships and artillery forces. Hamas fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.

Israeli military officials say the airstrikes knocked out roughly a third of Hamas' rocket supply and delivered a blow to the group. It says that roughly 90 of the dead were wanted militants, and it has accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields.

A Hamas drone launched Monday into Israel marked the Islamic militant group's latest effort to catch the Israeli military off-guard. But like the others, it had little impact on the battlefield.

The Israeli Cabinet has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire to end a week of conflict with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip that has killed 185 Palestinians and exposed millions of Israelis to Hamas rocket fire.

The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Cabinet met on Tuesday morning and accepted the proposal, which went into effect at 9 a.m.

It calls for a cease-fire to begin within 12 hours of "unconditional acceptance" by the sides, followed by the opening of Gaza's border crossings and talks in Cairo within two days.

Hamas has acknowledged "diplomatic movement" on ending the conflict without yet formally accepting the proposal.

Israel launched the offensive last Tuesday, saying it was responding to weeks of rocket fire out of the Hamas-ruled territory.



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Hamas rejects Egypt's ceasefire proposal

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1000|Char. 1000  Char.
Brian Hope Tuesday at 4:08 AM

Their rejection of a cease-fire means that Hamas has not sacrificed enough Palestinian lives to adequately further its own interests.

Flag Reply +100 rate up
5 replies
dal Tuesday at 4:40 AM

funny that they had no problem getting thousands of rockets into Gaza yet can't manage to get food for their people. Hamas is an animal act. Israel is putting an end to the show. Long stand Israel.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
9 replies
ngagnon558 Tuesday at 5:03 AM

Not only do the hamas terrorists not accept the cease fire proposal, they immediately launch more missiles into Israel....
if the Palestinian people accept this from hamas, they deserve what happens.
time to eliminate hamas to the man....

Flag Reply +99 rate up
6 replies
bert hall Tuesday at 6:13 AM

ISRAEL, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK. DO NOT TRUST PRESIDENT OBAMA TO HELP YOU. PRESIDENT OBAMA IS THE WORST PRESIDENT IN AMERICAN HISTORY.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
30 replies
crotalus Tuesday at 3:35 AM

"....this proposal is not acceptable." Translation: "we aren't out of rockets, yet."

Flag Reply +94 rate up
4 replies
kiick23 Tuesday at 6:38 AM

Palestinians reject peace proposal 2014. Palestinaians reject coexistance 1948. For 66 years these war mongering barbarians drooling from the mouth and lusting for the blood of Jewish children have rejected every offer made to them. Every single Palestinian death is the responsibility of the Palestinian government whether it be Arafat's Fatah or the terrorist Hamas. Don't cry to the world anymore. I'm sick of your whining.
You Palestinian infidels are your own worst enemy. At this point I couldn't care less if Israel turns Gaza into a arking lot. You've earned it. You deserve it. You are a collectively guilty people. You voted for Hamas.

Flag Reply +87 rate up
13 replies
Doug Tuesday at 3:49 AM

""Obama said at a White House dinner Monday night celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. "

I knew he was a Muslim POS.

Flag Reply +83 rate up
30 replies
wscottjordan Tuesday at 4:34 AM

Palestinians, stupid is as stupid does. So what was the deal breaker, Israel not leaving the Middle East? Netanyahu, release the hounds!!!

Flag Reply +73 rate up
1 reply
robadude32 wscottjordan Tuesday at 6:18 AM

I agree. The moderate "Palestinians" are like lambs to the slaughter. Even in Egypt the people rose up against the Muslim Brotherhood and yet they will never take a stand for themselves.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
beatsynthesis Tuesday at 4:59 AM

Hamas leaders must be exterminated ASAP.

Flag Reply +64 rate up
3 replies
tommcc2002 Tuesday at 4:51 AM

If the border closure did not keep rockets out of the hands of Hamas, it was not tight enough. None-the-less, Egypt and Israel put forth a "make nice" offer to reduce border restrictions, and Hamas rejects it !?!?

Flag Reply +49 rate up
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