A Hamas official said today that Egypt had brokered a Gaza ceasefire deal that would go into effect within hours, but a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said “we’re not there yet.”
“An agreement for calm has been reached. It will be declared at 9 o’clock (1900 GMT) and go into effect at midnight (2200 GMT),” Hamas official Ayman Taha told Reuters from Cairo, where intensive efforts have been under way to end seven days of fighting.
Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told Reuters the announcement was premature and Israeli military operations in Gaza, territory run by Hamas Islamists, would continue in parallel with diplomacy.
“We’re not there yet,” Regev said on CNN. “The ball’s still in play.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was heading to the region from Asia and was expected in Yerushalayim late today to meet Netanyahu.
Both Israel and the United States have said they preferred a diplomatic solution to the Gaza crisis to a possible Israeli ground operation in the enclave of 1.7 million Palestinians.
“No country would tolerate rocket attacks against its cities and against its civilians. Israel cannot tolerate such attacks,” Netanyahu said with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who arrived in Yerushalayim from talks in Cairo, at his side.
“If a long-term solution can be put in place through diplomatic means, then Israel would be a willing partner to such a solution,” he said.
“But if stronger military action proves necessary to stop the constant barrage of rockets, Israel will do what is necessary to defend our people,” said Netanyahu, who is favored to win a January general election.