Friday, November 16, 2012

Egyptian PM visits Gaza, sides reportedly exchange strikes despite promised ceasefire

Palestinian Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniya (R) receives Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil in Gaza City, on November 16, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)

Source: Russia Today

Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil arrived in Gaza to show support to the Palestinian people after a two-day Israeli attack on the area. Reportedly, despite the implemented ceasefire during the PM’s trip, rocket fire was exchanged by both sides.

The ceasefire was broken shortly after Kandil’s arrival, when rockets fired from Gaza hit several sites in southern Israel, according to media reports. The Israeli Air Force responded by sending rockets on to the house of one of the Hamas leaders in Southern Gaza.

“What I am witnessing in Gaza is a disaster and I can't keep quiet. The Israeli aggression must stop,” stated Egyptian prime minister according to BBC’s Middle East Bureau Chief Paul Danahar.

“Egypt supports the Palestinians, Israel’s actions will not go unnoticed,” Kandil said.

Reportedly, Kandil arrived in Gaza for three hours to try and broker a new longer-lasting ceasefire during his visit.

While there he spoke to Palestinian politicians and stopped at a Shifa hospital in Gaza and held a dead child to show his solidarity, reported Global Post Senior Correspondent for the Middle East and North Africa Erin Cunningham.

Palestinian Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniya (R) and Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil hold the body of a Palestinian baby boy who was killed in an Israeli air strike on November 16, 2012 during a visit to the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City (AFP Photo / Manmud Hams)

During the stop in the hospital, Kandil made a statement saying that “Egypt will spare no effort … to stop the aggression and to achieve a truce.”

Media reported that two more people, one of them a child, were killed in Gaza by an Israeli airstrike while Kandil was visiting.

Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense has already killed 21 Palestinians, including eight militants and 13 civilians, among them six children and a pregnant woman. Also more than 150 were injured. Three Isrealis died from missiles fired from Gaza.

IDF said overnight shelling hit around 150 rocket-launching sites in Gaza, bringing the total sites hit to 450 since the operation began on Wednesday.

Egypt plays a key role as a mediator of the conflict. Egypt was the first country to withdraw its ambassador from Israel and called for the United National Security Council’s (UNSC) emergency meeting, which began Wednesday evening.

President Mohamed Morsi, seen by Hamas as a protector, denounced the Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

Also, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr called on the US to “immediately intervene” to curb “Israeli aggression” in Gaza in a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The new Egyptian president faces domestic pressure to act tough in front of Israel and protect the close historical ties to the Palestinians.

However, Egypt receives $1.3 billion a year in US military aid and relies on American help to aid its economy, which constrain him in his ability to act and show that he differs from his previous US-backed predecessor Hosni Mubarak.

Nevertheless, Hamas has turned to Egypt for support. The group’s leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke out asking for more Egyptian help.

"We call upon the brothers in Egypt to take the measures that will deter this enemy," Haniyeh said.

This conflict will serve as test for President Mohamed Morsi’s domestic stance on the one hand and, on the other, Egypt’s willingness to support the country’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which the West sees as the cornerstone for peace in Middle East.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has asked for a “Day of Rage” Friday in all Arab capitals in response to Israeli attack on Gaza. The Muslim Brotherhood has contributed to Morsi’s success in Egypt and is also seen as supporter of Hamas.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel also recognized Egypt’s significant role as a mediator in the region on Friday and has called upon Egypt to use its influence to restrain the conflict in Gaza.

In addition, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will visit Israel and Egypt next week in his own attempt to bring about the end to Israel’s attack on Gaza. Ban is expected to discuss with Egyptian and Israeli officials the danger of escalation and the need to stop the violence.


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