An Egyptian delegation reportedly met with Hamas officials before crossing over the border to meet with Israeli representatives in Tel Aviv. The goal, to arrange a ceasefire before Israel began ground operations in Gaza, failed as IDF forces reportedly entered Gaza on Friday morning. Egypt has acted as a third-party mediator in the past.
Prime Minister Netanyahu stated on Wednesday at a meeting with the heads of the military that Israel had rejected the ceasefire offer from Hamas.
Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued earlier on Wednesday a statement confirming this.
“Israel is not preparing for a ceasefire,” Gantz said. “There is currently no end date for the operation. Only when we achieve complete quiet can we talk about calm,” Gantz said. “We will not listen to moral preaching from any organization or institution regarding our right and duty to protect the citizens of Israel.”
Israel has taken out at least six top-ranking Hamas and Islamic Jihad military leaders.
The news of negotiations was accompanied by heavy rocket fire from Gaza on Thursday night. Over 2,000 rockets have been fired at Israel since Monday resulting in 7 Israeli civilian deaths, including a seven-year-old boy, and dozens wounded. An IDF soldier was killed and two critically wounded when by an anti-tank rocket attack. The IDF claims that the Iron Dome anti-missile system has intercepted more than 90% of the rockets from Gaza. One rocket struck the city of Ramle and was presumed to have targeted the nearby Ben Gurion Airport. Flights were redirected to Ramon Airport in the Arava Desert near Eilat.
Late Wednesday, Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shukry, condemned Israeli attacks on Palestinian territory in a phone call with his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi. He said it was important for both sides to avoid escalation and resorting to military means, according to a readout of the call.
On Friday, Saleh Aruri, an exiled senior Hamas leader, told Al Araby that Hamas turned down an offer of a three-hour truce to allow for more negotiations toward a full cease-fire.