Palestinian firemen working in front of the al-Shorouq building, a media center, which was hit by two missiles on the first floor, Gaza city, November 2012. As a result of it, Ramez Najeeb Harb, 36, the media officer of the al-Quds Brigades (the armed wing of Islamic Jihad) was killed and another member of Islamic Jihad was wounded. Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org
The day began with high hopes for a halting of the Israeli bombardment and rocket attacks on Israel, but the latest news is that there will be no cease-fire tonight. Reports streamed in throughout the day from various media outlets that a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Palestinian factions, brokered by Egypt, would take place at midnight tonight (Gaza time).
But the latest news out of Israel/Palestine indicates that the bombing continues, and with it rocket attacks into Israel. The death toll has continued to rise for Palestinians in Gaza today. The latest count, according to Ma’an News, is that 141 Palestinians have been killed and over 900 injured. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reports that 70 civilians have been killed by Israeli strikes, and 786 civilians injured. Of the civilians dead, 23 are children. 19 people were killed today, according to Haaretz.
Israelis also suffered casualties today. Two people were killed in two separate attacks on the Eshkol Regional Council. One of the dead was an Israeli soldier; the other was a civilian.
Al Jazeera English has more on the potential ceasefire:
A Hamas official has said that the anticipated announcement of a truce agreement with Israel has been delayed.
Ezzat al-Rishq told Reuters news agency that there would be no announcement until Wednesday.
“The Israeli side has not responded yet, so we will not hold a (news) conference this evening and must wait until tomorrow,” said Rishq.
“The truce is now held up because we are waiting for the Israeli side to respond.”
Al Jazeera English also has what it says are the details of what is contained in the ceasefire agreement:
“It’s one thing for this agreement to be signed, it’s quite another for it to be implemented,” said [Al Jazeera’s Peter] Greste.
“But here’s what we do understand is to be contained in this agreement: Firstly, that Israel has agreed to stop targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders. Secondly, that Hamas has agreed to stop firing rockets over the border into Israel,” said Greste.
“Thridly, that the border restrictions into Gaza will be eased, but we don’t know quite what that means – we don’t know what restrictions will be lifted.”
He added that Egypt would be the guarantor of the agreement.
Haaretz reported further on why the ceasefire did not come today:
Following a day of intense diplomatic efforts, and grueling negotiations in Cairo, a statement on a cease-fire in Gaza, due to come into effect midnight Tuesday, was postponed in the last minute. Egyptian officials and senior Hamas operatives indicated that an Israeli request was the reason for the delay, and that talks would resume on Wednesday morning.
A senior Israeli official said the latest draft compiled by Egyptian intelligence officials wasn’t favored Israel. Though the Egyptians adopted Hamas’ stances on some points, especially with regards to everything doing with opening border crossings, loosening the blockade, and annulling the 500-meter security zone on Gaza’s side of the border, to which Israel bars the entrance of Palestinians.
“These aren’t [former Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak and [former Egyptian Vice President] Omar Suleiman, who reviled Hamas,” the senior official said, adding: “Today it’s [Egyptian President Mohamed] Morsi who’s calling the shots.”=
Hamas has agreed in the past to truces with Israel without the end of the blockade, though the truce that held (until Israel broke it) in the run-up to Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09 did reportedly have the end of the blockade as a stipulation. The details of that agreement were never published.
As it became clear that there would be no ceasefire today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the region and held a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Clinton is in the region to urge a “deescalation” of the situation in Gaza, and will be speaking with both Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi.
Palestinians in the West Bank are planning a demonstration tomorrow to protest Clinton meeting with Abbas.
Earlier in the day on the American front, the U.S. government “blocked a U.N. Security Council call for an immediate cease-fire in Israel’s weeklong offensive in Gaza against Hamas,” the Associated Press reported. The reason? The statement did not blame the escalation on rockets from Gaza.
Attacks on journalists in Gaza continued. Two employees of the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV were killed, and an employee of Al Quds Educational Radio was killed as well. Ma’an has the details:
Three Palestinian journalists were killed in Israeli airstrikes on central and northern Gaza Tuesday evening, after media buildings were hit by Israeli warplanes two days in a row.
Mahmoud al-Koumi and Husam Salameh, both cameramen for al-Aqsa TV, were killed in an airstrike on a car near al-Wihda towers in the Gaza City.
Both men were 30-years-old and the father of four children.
Palestinian press freedom group Mada said the journalists were traveling in an Al-Aqsa TV car marked with a press sign.Two others were injured in the strike, medics said.
Another airstrike killed Muhammad Abu Aisha, the director of Al-Quds Educational Radio, in his car in Deir al-Balah.
Their deaths have sparked outrage among Gaza’s press corps. Mada condemned the strike as a “heinous crime … (and) a flagrant breach of the international conventions that protect journalists.”