Israel and Hamas are considering a U.S.-backed proposal for a temporary cease-fire as the conflict in the Gaza Strip intensified and spurred major Palestinian protests in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with senior ministers in Jerusalem today to consider a week-long truce plan endorsed by U.S Secretary of State John Kerry. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Kerry met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo today. Turkey's top diplomat, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, traveled to meet his Qatari counterpart in Doha, where Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is based.
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As diplomats pursued a truce, the fighting in Gaza sparked some of the biggest protests in years in the West Bank overnight. The demonstration by thousands of Palestinians started out peacefully at the Amari refuge camp before erupting into violence at the Qalandia checkpoint with rock throwing, burning of tires and armed clashes with Israeli security forces. At least one Palestinian was killed, Israel Radio said.
The conflict deepened last week when the Israeli military added to its air bombardment by sending troops into Gaza in an effort to stop militants firing barrages of rockets into Israel and destroy tunnels they use to launch attacks. More than two weeks of fighting have killed more than 800 Palestinians and 35 Israelis. Israel's death toll rose today after the army said a soldier had been killed in action in northern Gaza.
Hamas's armed wing said it tried to strike the airport in Tel Aviv again today, after international airlines this week temporarily suspended flights citing security concerns. Israel's army said its Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted two rockets fired at the Tel Aviv area, and had no reports of injuries or damage.
Israel, like the U.S. and European Union, classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization, and says it uses civilians as human shields.
The truce deal under discussion would permit Israel to remain in Gaza to continue its destruction of cross-border tunnels while Hamas leaders that rule Gaza negotiate with Egypt on new arrangements to open the strip's border crossings, according to a report on Israel Radio, which cited an unidentified Israeli official.
Hamas has agreed in principal to a temporary cease-fire, with conditions, the London-based Al Hayat newspaper reported. The Islamist group spurned a truce proposal last week after Israel accepted it, saying the plan didn't guarantee lifting the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt on Gaza.
Efforts to forge a deal were given impetus by one of the most severe incidents since fighting broke out, as Palestinian officials said 16 people were killed yesterday in a shelter run by the United Nations in northern Gaza. Seven children were among the dead at the UN Relief and Works Agency refuge in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia yesterday, Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman for the health ministry in Gaza, told reporters.
Palestinian leaders in the West Bank expressed optimism that a temporary cease-fire can be agreed by this weekend, to coincide with the Eid festival that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
"Work is under way to have a humanitarian pause for Eid so that people can find their families," Abdullah Abdullah, a Palestinian Authority official, said in an interview in Ramallah. "This will happen."
Israeli police arrested 39 Palestinians in east Jerusalem as officers dispersed stone-throwing crowds overnight, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. Police are deploying extra units in the capital today to prevent more disturbances, Rosenfeld said.