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U.N. chief pushes for cease fire

Hamas holds talks in Cairo on Egypt's cease fire plan; rockets from Lebanon hit Israel again

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed in Egypt yesterday a call for a cease fire between Hamas and Israel, whose aircraft pounded tunnels used by the group to smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip. While Israel's Gaza offensive entered its 19th day, rockets fired from Lebanon struck near the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona. But there was no immediate sign the incident would escalate into wider violence. "I repeat my call for an immediate and durable cease fire," Ban told a Cairo news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. Ban, at the start of a Middle East tour to push for an end to the Israeli assaults and Hamas cross-border rocket attacks, said he hoped an Egyptian cease fire initiative would bear fruit soon. Israel has said any truce must ensure that Hamas cannot rearm. It has been backing that demand by dropping bunker-buster bombs on smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border. The tunnels have provided an economic lifeline for Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip and a military supply route for militants. The Israeli military said its aircraft bombed about 35 tunnels yesterday and also attacked Hamas police headquarters in the Israeli-encircled city of Gaza, eight squads of gunmen and nine weapons production and storage facilities. "They used bombs that went deep into the tunnels and shook the whole Rafah refugee camp. The land trembled beneath our feet," said Bassam Abdallah, a local Palestinian cameraman. "We used to be afraid - but now we're getting used to it." Israeli troops edged closer to the heart of the city of Gaza and international organizations expressed growing concern about the plight of children trapped there. Israeli forces killed two militants and two women in the latest fighting, Gaza medical workers said. About six rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel, causing no casualties, police said. The Palestinian death toll rose to 975, Gaza's Health Ministry said, counting some 400 women and children among those killed. Israel says 10 Israeli soldiers and three civilians hit by Hamas rockets fired across the border have been killed. In Cairo, Aboul Gheit said a Hamas delegation was holding talks with Egyptian intelligence officials to discuss the truce initiative. Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq said on Tuesday the movement had "significant observations" on the Egyptian plan. The proposal calls for a temporary cease fire, followed by a long-term truce and the opening of Gaza's border crossings with the presence of officials from the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces Hamas drove out of Gaza in 2007. The third phase of the initiative deals with efforts to reconcile Hamas and Abbas's Fatah group. Human rights groups have reported shortages of vital supplies, including water, in the Gaza Strip. A fuel shortage has brought frequent power blackouts. Israel has permitted almost daily truck shipments of food and medicine. But Human Rights Watch said Israel's daily three hour break in attacks to facilitate the supply of humanitarian aid to Gazans was "woefully insufficient."


Updated : 2021-07-31 04:18 GMT+08:00