Israel’s security cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is scheduled to meet Friday to discuss a cease-fire proposal put forward by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Associated Press reported, citing unnamed Israeli defense officials.
The plan reportedly calls for a seven-day humanitarian truce allowing time for Israel and Hamas to discuss new border arrangements in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli official, speaking to the Jerusalem Post, said that Israel will wait for Hamas’ response to the proposal before committing to it. Hamas, however, has consistently opposed all cease-fire attempts that do not take its demands into consideration.
“We will not accept any initiative that does not lift the blockade on our people and that does not respect their sacrifices," Khaled Meshaal, chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, told reporters at a news conference in Doha, Qatar, on Wednesday. His demands also include the opening of all border crossings in Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
As Israel’s operation entered its 18th day on Friday, 816 Palestinians have so far lost their lives and over 5,000 have been injured. 35 Israelis, including 33 Israeli soldiers, have also been killed, Al Jazeera reported.
Early on Friday, Israeli rockets struck 30 houses in the Gaza Strip, including the home of Salah Hassanein, a leader of the Al-Quds brigade --the military wing of Islamic Jihad -- which is the second-largest militant group in Gaza. Hassanein and two of his sons were reportedly killed in the strike.
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Al Jazeera also reported Friday that Hamas had launched three rockets toward Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport. However, there were no reports of any casualties.
In Jerusalem, meanwhile, thousands of Israeli security forces were deployed after Thursday’s violent protests in the occupied West Bank. Two protesters were killed in clashes with Israeli police in Ramallah city on Thursday night.
Many Palestinian organizations have reportedly called for a “day of rage” on Friday to protest Israel’s assault on Gaza and the deaths of the two Palestinians in the West Bank.