Gaza Conflict Rages Amid Ceasefire Push

November 21, 2012 - 1:25 AM

Gaza rocket damage

An apartment block in Rishon Lezion, an Israeli city of 250,000 on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, damaged by a rocket fired from Gaza on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

(CNSNews.com) – After reports of an imminent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas proved premature overnight, Egyptian-brokered talks were set to continue on Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier that while Israel would prefer a diplomatic long-term solution to the Gaza violence it would do “whatever is necessary to defend its people.”

Tuesday’s developments in the conflict included the deaths of two more Israelis in rocket attacks, 138 of which occurred during the day. The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system successfully destroyed 51 incoming projectiles, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), including several over Ashdod, a Mediterranean port city with around 200,000 inhabitants.

The IDF reported that dozens of targets in Gaza, including more than 20 underground weapons stores, a bank used to finance Hamas operations, and a building housing Hamas’ communications outlets, had been hit in airstrikes.

The IDF spokesman’s office said the Air Force had dropped Arabic-language leaflets over Gaza urging civilian residents of specified areas to “stay away from Hamas operatives and infrastructure.”

In monitored programming on  Hamas’ Al-Aqsa radio service later in the day, the IDF said, a Hamas interior ministry spokesman had urged Gazans to ignore the Israeli warnings, whose “only purpose is spreading fear and panic within our people.”

Hamas gunmen

Hamas’ “military wing” claimed responsibility on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 for executing six people in Gaza accused of collaborating with Israel, including a man whose body was then chained to a motorcycle and dragged through the streets of Gaza City. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

In another development, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported that “gunmen” in Gaza shot dead six people accused of “collaborating” with Israel. It said the body of one of the men was chained to a motorcycle and dragged through the streets of Gaza City.

The Associated Press, which published photos showing bearded and armed young men on a motorcycle dragging a body, said Hamas’ “military wing” had claimed responsibility for executing the six.

Clinton arrived in Jerusalem Tuesday on a mission to promote a “de-escalation of violence.”

Meeting with Netanyahu, she reiterated America’s “rock solid and unwavering” commitment to Israel’s security

“The rocket attacks from terrorist organizations inside Gaza on Israeli cities and towns must end and a broader calm restored,” she said. “The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Clinton said she would take the same message to Cairo on Wednesday, and said the U.S. appreciated Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s “personal leadership and Egypt’s efforts thus far.”

“As a regional leader and neighbor, Egypt has the opportunity and responsibility to continue playing a crucial and constructive role in this process.”

Hamas is the Palestinian offshoot of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Netanyahu told Clinton that if there was a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to the problem through diplomatic means, Israel would prefer that.

“But if not, I am sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary to defend its people. This is something that I don’t have to explain to Americans. I know that President Obama, you, and the American people understand that perfectly well.”