Egyptian PM visits Gaza, decries Israeli offensive
Published Friday, November 16, 2012
Egypt's prime minister vowed to intensify efforts to secure a truce between Hamas and the Israeli army and urged world leaders to end Israel's "aggression" in Gaza, in his visit to the coastal enclave Friday.
Hisham Qandil's comments came as Israeli officials said the Jewish state was preparing to launch its first ground offensive in four years into the Gaza Strip and the army started calling up 16,000 reservists.
Israel said it would suspend all military action during Qandil's three-hour visit, so long as Gaza militant groups also halt fire. However, the ceasefire quickly dissolved: militants fired rockets into Israel after an Israeli air strike hit northern Gaza on Friday morning, killing two, according to Palestinian security forces.
Qandil entered the bomb-scarred territory via the Rafah crossing early morning, decrying Israeli ferocious assault on Gaza that started Wednesday and has killed at least 20 and injured more than 200. Four Israelis have been killed in rocket fire.
Qandil visited Gaza City’s Shifa hospital, where he saw the bodies of those killed in Friday air strikes.
"Egypt will not hesitate to intensify its efforts and make sacrifices to stop this aggression and achieve a lasting truce," he told reporters.
"What I saw today in Gaza, at the hospital, with the martyrs, cannot be met with silence," Qandil added.
"The whole world should take responsibility to stop the aggression."
A Palestinian official close to Egyptian mediators told Reuters that Qandil's visit, which included members of Cairo's secret service, "was the beginning of a process to explore the possibility of reaching a truce. It is early to speak of any details or of how things will evolve.”
Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Mursi – who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood movement that gave birth to Hamas – warned on Thursday that Egypt would not accept Israel's "aggression" in the Gaza Strip.
The bloodshed began on Wednesday afternoon when Israel killed top Hamas military chief Ahmad al-Jaabari, sparking a massive escalation in violence and a furious response from Cairo which promptly recalled its ambassador to the Jewish state.
Gaza was shaken by blasts throughout the night as Israeli warplanes carried out relentless sorties, as Palestinian militants fired more rockets into the Jewish state as the bloodshed entered a third day.
(AFP, Al-Akhbar, Ma’an)