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US warns Israel ally against Gaza ground assault
Published Monday 14/07/2014 (updated) 16/07/2014 11:27
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(AFP/Jack Guez)
GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Washington warned its Israeli ally Monday against any ground invasion of Gaza, as Egyptian officials said the US top diplomat was headed to the region to join efforts to end a week of deadly violence.

The White House stopped short of criticizing Israel over the civilian casualty toll from its devastating air and artillery bombardment of the densely populated Palestinian enclave that has drawn flak from the United Nations and human rights watchdogs.

It said the Israeli government had the "right" and "responsibility" to defend its citizens against rocket attacks by Hamas from its Gaza stronghold.

But it said even more civilians would be put at risk were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to heed hardliners in his governing coalition and send in troops and armor.

"Nobody wants to see a ground invasion because that would put more civilians at risk," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

It was the first time that the White House has specifically warned in a public forum against an Israeli invasion of Gaza, although other US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, have previously said Washington would not like to see such a step.

With Israel's punishing air campaign in its seventh day, the death toll in Gaza hit 177, prompting growing calls for a ceasefire which have so far showed little sign of progress.

Ahead of an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, Hamas shot down hopes of a deal to end the violence, saying no serious moves had been made.

"Talk of a ceasefire requires real and serious efforts, which we haven't seen so far," Hamas MP Mushir al-Masri told AFP in Gaza City.

"Any ceasefire must be based on the conditions we have outlined. Nothing less than that will be accepted," he said, in a show of defiance in the face of the withering Israeli bombardment.

Israel has said it is not ready to countenance a ceasefire either, as it seeks to deal ever harsher blows to Hamas and stamp out its capacity to fire rockets deep into Israel.

In a bid to add Washington's weight to truce efforts, Kerry is to fly into Cairo on Tuesday, Egyptian state media reported.

There was no immediate comment from the State Department, with Israeli press reports suggesting Kerry would also visit Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah, headquarters of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Rising civilian toll

In Gaza City's Tel al-Hawa neighbourhood, relatives of a retired economics professor in his 80s looked at the damage to his home, clearly bemused as to why it should have been targeted by an Israeli missile.

This time, the family escaped unharmed, fleeing after an initial warning strike. But the missile itself failed to explode, drawing a crowd of curious onlookers as officials wondered how to remove it.

Human rights groups say more than 75 percent of the dead have been non-combatants. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees says more than a quarter of them have been children.

Although Israel has confirmed preparations for a possible ground attack, it appeared to be holding off with the security cabinet meeting reportedly deciding against putting boots on the ground -- for now.

But the pace of the air strikes slowed noticeably on Monday.

Seven people were killed, far fewer than the 56 killed on Saturday, the bloodiest day by far of a campaign which began before dawn on July 8 with the aim of halting militant rocket fire on southern Israel.

So far, no Israelis have been killed. A handful have been seriously wounded.

The rocket fire has since intensified, with Hamas militants launching more than 800 rockets at cities across Israel, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the northern city of Hadera. A further 187 have been shot down.

"The military steps being taken by both sides in the last 24 hours were a function, among other things, of the developments in the dialogue," Alex Fishman wrote in the top-selling Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper.

"If no catastrophe takes place that causes a particularly high number of fatalities on either side, the likelihood is that the fire will abate as early as this week."

As the human scale of the tragedy grew, a senior military official said the army was using a "pain map," hitting targets seen as most valuable to the Islamist movement.

So far, Hamas does not appear in any mood for concessions.

Masri said its conditions would include a lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade on Gaza, the opening of its Rafah border crossing with Egypt, and the release of prisoners Israel rearrested after freeing them in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.

Speaking to AFP in Cairo, another Hamas official said a general framework had been presented, but the leadership wanted more than it gained in a previous truce which ended the last major round of violence with Israel.

"We need to build on the 2012 truce and move forward," he said.
1 ) Outlier / USA
14/07/2014 23:03
Israel is best able to evaluate the risks of a ground operation, not some allied country thousands of miles away.

14/07/2014 23:19

3 ) Julie / USA
14/07/2014 23:19
let's get TWO things PERFECTLY CLEAR: 1) the criminal, barbaric, murderous, violent apartheid entity called izrael DOES NOT EVER AT ANY TIME....i repeat....DOES NOT EVER AT ANY TIME....have the right to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity!!!!! 2) Palestinian resistance (including armed resistance) is LEGAL PER INTERNATIONAL LAW against izrael's ILLEGAL occupation!!!!!!! izrael MUST BE STOPPED & PROSECUTED at the ICC!!!!!

4 ) Sherri Munnerlyn / US
15/07/2014 03:46
Sometimes, I wonder if these civilian killing operations are drawn up and planned out from the outset in a meeting behind closed doors with Israeli and US officials.

5 ) Mel / USA
15/07/2014 19:11
Cont: Listen,word4word,to an A 1hr US(independent)TV discussion by 5 VERY intelligent,SPOT-ON-TRUTH people,this a.m.And remember Israel,these 5 brave scholars are Israeli-Jewish,US-Can-Jewish & Palestinian.That's great representation for the whole issue of Zionism's INTERNATIONALLY-ACCEPTED ILLEGAL ongoing occupation/blockade of Palestine.Listen/read transcript carefully!BRAVO,on observation of truths.http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/15/after_192_killed_in_gaza_is?autostart=true

6 ) Children / Target
15/07/2014 19:44
Everyone knows how precisely the Israelis are able to target and hit the people they are after. Clearly, they have a list of children, and they are methodically killing each child. Based on past fighting, and historic trends, the current attack will end when 1000 children have been killed or severely wounded. Thank Allah for Hamas and its protective umbrella!

7 ) Tom / USA
15/07/2014 20:30
To quote the book that Israel uses to justify the murder, dispossession, and oppression of Palestinians, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap." Amen.

8 ) zed / india
15/07/2014 20:41
Israel not killed innocent people but they born lots of terrorist in the world..

9 ) Anica Hanjaab / EU
15/07/2014 21:31
3) Oh Julie, you know you don't really mean all those nasty things you say. Surely you give credit to Israel for conducting their battle with these Islamist terrorists in such a humanitarian way. I mean, when do you ever hear Hamas warning Jewish civilians to evacuate an area before they bomb it? They don't even look after their own people like that! And that's your answer to that ICC silliness. Oh, and bye the way darling, Israel isn't occupying Gaza!

10 ) David / USA
15/07/2014 22:57
Kerry gave the go-ahead for Israel to wipe the floor with Hamas since Hamas just couldn't bring itself to stop firing rockets into Israel. At least the people of Gaza will be able to tour Haniyeh's and Mashaal's beachside mansions after Israel sends them on their way to their 72 virgins. Looks like the hospitals and schools where the Hamas 'leadership' hides out are next. Hey, does anyone know that none of Haniyeh's 13 kids are fighting? Nope, he lets other families send their kids to die.

11 ) get / gone
15/07/2014 23:22
Useless israeli firsters must be tried for treason.. wbich means death.

12 ) Tobias / USA
16/07/2014 01:12
With Hamas refusing the ceasefire deal, and with the 1st Israeli killed by Hamas rockets, the US may soon rescind objections to a ground force.

13 ) @ Julie-3 & Sherri-4 / USA too
16/07/2014 01:20
-3- You are perfectly correct, that No one "has the right to commit war crimes." And, essentially all world leaders (including Palestinians) know that Israel does Not, while Hamas (et. al.) virtually never stops, which explains "PERFECTLY CLEAR" why the PA has not gone to the ICC. -4- Obviously, "civilian killing operations are drawn up and planned out from the outset" by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, other Gaza militants, and most recently the kidnapper-murderers of the 3 Israel teenagers !!
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