Clinton to visit Middle East as attacks intensify
Israel holding off on ground offensive
Last Updated: 211 days ago
NEAR THE ISRAEL-GAZA BORDER (CNN) - As explosions terrorized both Palestinians and Israelis for a seventh day Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will head to the region in an attempt to help resolve the incessant violence.
Meanwhile, Israel said it's holding off on a military ground offensive in "to give time -- limited time -- for a diplomatic solution," an Israeli official close to the negotiations said. "That solution must result in no more Hamas rockets fired on Israel."
Clinton will leave Cambodia late Tuesday for a trip to Israel, Ramallah and Egypt.
"She'll meet with regional leaders, beginning with our Israeli partners, to consult on the situation in Gaza," Deputy National Security Director Ben Rhodes said.
He said the visits will support the "de-escalation of the violence and a durable outcome that ends the rocket attacks on Israeli cities and restores broader calm in the region."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is among the diplomats scrambling to help find a solution before airborne attacks escalate to a ground war.
Ban is set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the crisis.
On the ground, a fresh barrage of airstrikes pummeled Gaza as rockets pounded Israel on Tuesday.
The Israel Defense Forces said it targeted 100 sites overnight, "including underground rocket launchers, terror tunnels and ammunition storage facilities." The IDF said the "terror tunnels" were used as hideouts by Hamas operatives.
Israel has sent at least 1,350 airstrikes to Gaza, the IDF said.
The Gaza Ministry of Health said five people were killed Tuesday morning, including a child in northern Gaza. The ministry said 114 Palestinians have been killed and more than 900 injured since Israel's week-long attacks started.
Concerns about a ground war heightened when Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, said Israel had finished its planning for a ground invasion of Gaza.
If Israeli troops do invade, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said it would "not be a picnic."
"We do not want escalation, nor do we call for a ground war," he said Monday. "But we are not afraid of it, nor will we back down."
Chatter about a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas have sparked a glimmer of hope, though days of negotiations in Egypt have yet to yield a truce.
According to a senior Hamas official involved in the talks, Israel has agreed to abide by some of Hamas' conditions -- but not all at once.
The Hamas official said Israel would end air assaults and gradually ease Israel's blockade of four crossings into Gaza, as long as Hamas stops firing rockets toward Israel.
But Hamas officials rejected Israel's response, saying they wanted a full agreement to their conditions and the opening of all four crossings at the same time.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said late Monday that "negotiations are going on," though he didn't offer any details.
Gaza has endured a crippling economic embargo since Hamas won control of the territory from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, after a landslide 2007 election that was followed by intra-Palestinian clashes.
The United States, Israel and the European Union characterize the militant fundamentalist Islamic organization Hamas as a terrorist group. But many Arab and Muslim nations view Hamas as the victim of Israeli aggression.
Diplomats hope to avoid a repeat of 2008, when at least 1,400 died after Israeli troops invaded Gaza after a similar spate of rocket attacks.
Israel has signaled it is open to a cease-fire, but only if Gaza militants halt rocket attacks.
"They have a choice. The minute they will stop (shooting), it will stop," Peres said.
The bloodshed in Israel might be worse if not for the "Iron Dome," Israel's missile defense system that has intercepted about 30% of the rockets fired from Gaza since last week.
At least 1,128 rockets have been fired into Israel; 350 of them have been intercepted by the Iron Dome, and 670 have landed in Israel, the IDF said. The remaining 108 rockets are unaccounted for.
Palestinian parliament member Mustafa Barghouti says he blames Israel for the bloodshed thus far.
"The problem is that Israel is using the bombardment of civilians and the killing of children as a tool of negotiations," he said.
Calls for a truce came on the heels of the single deadliest attack -- an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Sunday that left a family of nine dead within a building's broken concrete and mangled metal.
Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military arm, called it a "massacre committed by Israeli occupation" on Twitter.
The Israeli airstrike targeted Yehya Bayaa, "a senior Hamas member," said Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, the Israel Defense Forces' chief spokeswoman. The IDF alleges Bayaa is one of the leaders of a Hamas rocket-launching unit.
The building hit was a known hiding place for Bayaa -- though not his home, as was reported earlier
-- Leibovich said. Initially, the IDF reported it killed Bayaa in the attack.
As the violence rages on, more than a dozen foreign ministers from the Arab League's member states are expected in Gaza on Tuesday in a show of public support for the Palestinians. They joined by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, an Arab League spokesman said.
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