Operation Pillar of Defense
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|Dan Robinson||November 20th 2012|
|Rocket fired from Gaza|
Diplomats are pushing for a peaceful resolution to the latest reigniting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Barack Obama is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Israel, Ramallah and Cairo to meet with regional leaders as the cross border conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza enters its seventh day.
Clinton, who had been with Obama on a visit to Cambodia, left Tuesday to go to Jerusalem, where she will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She will also meet with Palestinian leaders and Egyptian officials on the trip, which the White House says will focus on U.S. interest in a peaceful outcome to the conflict.
"It's not a matter of leverage; it's a matter of what is in everybody's best interests," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters when pressed about Clinton's trip. "It is not in the interests of the Palestinians and the people of Gaza for there to be an escalation of this conflict. That would bring with it a huge cost."
Rhodes said there are many ways to de-escalate the violence, adding that the bottom line for the U.S. is ending Hamas rocket fire.
UN, Egypt weigh in
Diplomacy has so-far failed to stop the cross-border attacks, with the latest U.N. Security Council meeting on the situation ending late Monday without reaching an agreement. Meanwhile, smoke rose from Gaza City Tuesday as Israel pushed ahead with its air campaign against Hamas militants, who have been firing rockets toward Israeli communities. Officials say the death toll has risen to more than 100 Palestinians and three Israelis. Tuesday's Israeli air strike hit the Islamic National Bank in Gaza City, destroying the inside of the bank and damaging the basement.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Tuesday for an immediate cease-fire, a day after arriving in Cairo to support mediation efforts. "Both sides must hold fire immediately," Ban said. "Further escalation of the situation could put the entire region at risk.'' Egyptian-mediated talks to reach a truce between Palestinians and Israelis are ongoing in Cairo. Israel and Hamas said they were open to a diplomatic solution, but prepared for further escalation if that failed.
Rocket barrage continues
Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said the Gaza-based militant group is committed to a cease-fire but will not yield to Israeli conditions that it stop its rocket barrage. He said Israel must first lift its six-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israel's military reported a few rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel on Monday. Officials said the country's "Iron Dome" defense system had intercepted hundreds of rockets since the offensive began. Israel began its offensive with a November 14 air strike that killed Hamas's military leader in Gaza. It said the attack was in response to weeks of intensifying rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israeli communities.