World Bulletin / News Desk
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry have called for a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire in the embattled Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian groups.
During a press conference in Cairo, Ban said that the humanitarian ceasefire would cover the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
Kerry, for his part, voiced hope that both sides would agree to the seven-day truce as a prelude to reach a permanent ceasefire deal.
"At this moment, we are working towards a brief seven days of peace, seven days of humanitarian ceasefire in honor of Eid [al-Fitr] in order to be able to bring people together to try to work to create a more durable, sustainable ceasefire for the long-run," Kerry said.
Kerry said the basic structure of the humanitarian truce is being built on an Egyptian initiative.
"Both the Israelis and the Palestinians deserve and need to lead normal lives, and it's time for everyone to recognize that violence breeds violence, and that the short-term tactical gains that may be made through a violent means simply will not aspire the long-term changes that are necessary and that both parties really want," Kerry said.
The top U.S. diplomat said he will head to Paris on Saturday for talks with other players to as an attempt to bridge the gap between the parties to the conflict. However, he did not specify who he would meet in the French capital.
"Tomorrow, I will be in Paris where I will meet with some of my counterparts and I would also meet with other players who are important to this discussions in an effort to be able to try to see if we can narrow the gap," he said.
The U.N. chief also called for an extendable humanitarian 12-hour pause to mark the beginning of the seven-day ceasefire, to which both sides later responded positively.
"The people of Gaza have bled enough. They are trapped and besieged in a tiny densely-populated land, every bit of which is a civilian area," Ban told the conference. He also said that the Israeli people have been "living under the constant fear of Hamas rocket attacks."
"Stop the fighting. We call for a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire extending over the Eid period, and beginning with an extendable 12-hour pause," he added. "Start talking, there is no military solution to address the grievances and all parties must find a way to dialogue."
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, who attended the press conference, condemned the Israeli "use of power" against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.
"As long as there is occupation of land and blockade on the Palestinian territory, the resistance would go on. That's why all sides should work to end that conflict as soon as possible," he added.
"We have to dedicate ourselves to a final solution that means the end of the [Israeli] occupation," he said.
Earlier in the day, the Israeli security cabinet has rejected a proposal by Kerry for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
A government source was quoted by The Jerusalem Post as saying that Israel wanted "modifications" to the proposal before it agreed to halt hostilities.
Israeli daily Haaretz quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying that Kerry's plan called for a one-week ceasefire starting Sunday, during which some Israeli troops would remain in the Gaza Strip.
The proposal, according to the report, also calls for the U.S., the E.U. and the U.N. secretary-general to provide guarantees to both sides that subsequent negotiations would deal with longstanding grievances, including the disarming of Gaza-based resistance factions and an end to Israel's years-long blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Haaretz added that Kerry was currently awaiting a response from the Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers on Hamas' stance on the new proposal.
The move comes after Hamas rejected an earlier ceasefire proposal by Cairo, saying it had never been consulted on the terms of the plan.
Cairo unveiled its ceasefire initiative last week amid a fierce Israeli military offensive against the Gaza Strip, which has continued unabated since July 7.
Israel's onslaught has left almost 900 Palestinians dead – mostly civilians – and over 5400 injured, according to official figures.
Over the same period, 35 Israeli soldiers have been killed in fierce clashes with Palestinian resistance fighters.
Since hostilities began almost three weeks ago, only three Israeli civilians have reportedly been killed by rocket fire from Gaza.
Israel's "Operation Protective Edge" is the self-proclaimed Jewish state's third major offensive against the densely-populated Gaza Strip, which is home to some 1.8 million Palestinians, within the last six years.
In 2008/09, over 1500 Palestinians – the vast majority of them civilians – were killed in Israel's three-week-long "Operation Cast Lead."Last Mod: 26 Temmuz 2014, 09:46