Israel mulls Egypt truce plan for Gaza, Hamas says no

JERUSALEM- Israel was on Tuesday weighing an Egyptian truce proposal for an immediate ceasefire after a week of the most deadly violence in and around Gaza for years.

Cairo has proposed a ceasefire which would come into effect at 0600 GMT, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convening ministers from his security cabinet to consider the offer, which has won support from Washington.

But the Islamist Hamas movement, whose militants have fired hundreds of rockets at Israel in the past week, ruled out any end to the fighting without a fully-fledged agreement as the death toll in Gaza from the seven-day conflict rose to 188.

Cairo’s proposal came after Washington warned Israel against a ground offensive and as US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to arrive in Cairo to throw his weight behind diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed, Egyptian state media reported.

US President Barack Obama welcomed the Egyptian initiative, describing the deaths of Palestinian civilians as a “tragedy” while expressing support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks.

“We are encouraged that Egypt has made a proposal to accomplish this goal that we hope can restore the calm that we are seeking,” said Obama.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge before dawn on July 8, hitting Gaza with an intensive aerial bombing campaign to stamp out cross-border rocket fire, with militants answering with hundreds of rockets, dozens of which have targeted central and even northern Israel.

The deadly conflict, which has claimed the most victims since Israel’s blistering 22-day offensive in 2008-2009, has also seen rockets from Syria and Lebanon hitting the Israeli north, raising fears the conflict could spread.

Overnight, three rockets fired from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula hit Israel’s Red Sea resort of Eilat, two of them inside the city, causing damage and one outside in an open area, the military said.

Only two projectiles had been fired from Gaza since midnight.