Even as the body count piles up, the leader of Hamas, the Islamist militant group currently governing the Gaza Strip, said the group will not accept any cease-fire proposal that doesn’t include an end to the Israeli blockade.
The land, sea and air blockade on the Gaza Strip has been in effect since 2006, and both Israel and Egypt have closed their borders to residents of Gaza, prompting them to dig tunnels into neighboring countries.
"We cannot accept any proposal that does not include the lifting of the siege on Gazans," Khaled Meshaal said in a press conference in Doha, Al-Jazeera reported.
Last week, Egypt, who has been helping negotiate between the two groups, proposed a cease-fire agreement that would allow the border crossings between Egypt and Gaza to be opened “once the security situation becomes stable on the ground.” It then added, “Other issues, including security issues shall be discussed with the two sides.”
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Hamas rejected this in part, as Meshaal said Wednesday, because they would have to stop the attacks before knowing if the cease-fire would actually meet their demands. "Everyone wanted us to accept a cease-fire and then negotiate for our rights," Meshaal said. "We reject this and we reject it again today.”
"What is the price to pay?” Meshaal asked reporters. “How many Israeli soldiers is Israel willing to see dead before the siege is lifted?"
At least 649 Palestinians and 31 Israelis have died since Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” began over two weeks ago.
Earlier on Wednesday, the U.N. Human Rights Council voted to launch an investigation into Israel’s operation in Gaza, citing possible violations of international law and war crimes.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement after the vote, calling it a “travesty.”
"By failing to condemn Hamas's systematic use of human shields and by blaming Israel for the deaths that are caused by this grotesque human shields policy,” Netanyahu said, the U.N. is “sending a message to Hamas and terror organizations everywhere that using civilians as human shields is an effective strategy.”