Israel Prefers Diplomacy but Ready to Invade Gaza, Officials Say

NEW YORK | Monday, November 19th, 2012 4:30am EDT

Israel said it preferred a peaceful solution to end Palestinian rocket fire from the enclave.

Israel Prefers Diplomacy but Ready to Invade Gaza Officials Say 01

Israel attacked Palestinian militant targets in the Gaza on Sunday, preparing for a ground invasion while also negotiating to settle a truce. Photo: teleSURtv/Flickr

Mediator Egypt revealed that a deal for a truce to end the offensive is in its final stage. The leader of Hamas said the new conflict must be settled by Israel, while the country says its strikes are to halt Palestinian missile attacks.

Palestinian fire into Israel stopped at night but soon was resumed, with rockets targeting Tel Aviv. The two missiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air shield.

Speaking shortly after the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to widen its offensive.

“We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organisations and the Israel Defence Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation,” he said without further details.

The violence between Israel and Hamas this week has taken away lives of 81 Palestinians, including 37 civilians, as well as 3 Israeli civilians.

Khaled Meshaal, exiled leader of the Islamist group that rules the coastal strip, suggested that Israel had failed to achieve its objectives.

Hamas would not accept Israeli demands to end up the violence. Israel must first halt its strikes and lift its blockade of the enclave, he said.

“The weapons of the resistance have caught the enemy off guard,” Meshaal told reporters in Cairo.

“Whoever started the war must end it,” he said, adding Netanyahu had asked for a truce, an assertion that a senior Israeli official dismissed as untrue, Reuters reports.

Talks in Egypt could be close to achieving a deal between Israel and the Palestinians to stop the fighting, said Mursi’s Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, who arrived in Gaza on Friday to support people.

“I think we are close, but the nature of this kind of negotiation, (means) it is very difficult to predict,” Kandil said in an interview. Egypt has been hosting leaders of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller armed faction.

According to Israeli media, Israel representatives had also been to Cairo for truce negotiations. A spokesman for Netanyahu’s government declined comment.

“Israel is prepared and has taken steps, and is ready for a ground incursion which will deal severely with the Hamas military machine,” a senior official close to Netanyahu said.

“We would prefer to see a diplomatic solution that would guarantee the peace for Israel’s population in the south. If that is possible, then a ground operation would no longer be required. If diplomacy fails, we may well have no alternative but to send in ground forces,” he added.

Meanwhile, President Obama, who has already called leaders in the region for de-escalating the violence, urged to put an end to the firing of missiles into Israel by militants inside Gaza, saying “there is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”

The U.S. president also voiced America’s unwavering support for Israel.

“We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself,” he said.

He went on, adding: “If we’re serious about wanting to resolve this situation and create a genuine peace process, it starts with no more missiles being fired into Israel’s territory and that then gives us the space to try and deal with these long-standing conflicts that exist.”

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