Security cabinet unanimously agree on ceasefire in Gaza
Ariel Hermoni, Ministry of Defense
Israel’s security cabinet ended more than six hours of consultations on Gaza at the Tel Aviv military headquarters on Tuesday after Palestinian militants in the Hamas run enclave threatened to extend the range of their rocket attacks if Israel did not halt retaliatory airstrikes.
The security cabinet unanimously agreed on a ceasefire in Gaza.
However, four ministers in the cabinet reportedly opposed resuming the ceasefire negotiations according to Israel's Channel 10.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, and Education Minister Naftali Bennet reportedly proposed an alternative response to Hamas, but the other ministers at the cabinet meeting rejected it.
Liberman's office sent out a statement denying that he was opposed to halting Israeli strikes on Hamas, calling it “fake news.”
Bennett also denied being opposed to halting the strikes. “Reports that Bennett supported the cessation of strikes against Hamas targets are a complete lie,” his office said shortly after Liberman's statement.
Meanwhile, opposition lawmaker, Yair Lapid, slammed the cabinet for its decision in a video on Twitter.
“Hamas gets to stop the fighting whenever it wants. Netanyahu convened his cabinet for 7 hours and at the end they decided to abandon the residents of southern Israel and surrender Israeli deterrence,” he said.
Following the meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Emmanuel Macron of France regarding the ongoing Gaza escalation as well as Iranian activity in the region.
"Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorism," Netanyahu told the French leader. "The international community should continue" curbing Iranian aggression, he added.
Meanwhile, Egypt, which is mediating between Israel and Hamas, "reiterated... its request to Israel to immediately stop all forms of military action" in Gaza, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Cairo, which along with the United Nations has acted as a meditator, underlined "the necessity to bring an end to the violence and escalation, to restore calm immediately."
Egypt also warned of "serious and negative consequences of continuing this vicious cycle" of violence.
Kuwait and Bolivia requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip.
Kuwait, which represents Arab countries at the council, and Bolivia asked that the closed-door meeting be held later Tuesday, diplomats said.
Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon said "we will not accept a call for both sides to exercise restraint."
"There is one side that attacks and fires 400 missiles at civilian populations, and there is another side that protects its citizens," Danon said in a statement.
-Brink of war-
A statement from a joint committee of armed Palestinian factions in Gaza on Tuesday warned that "Our missiles will reach a range of 40 kilometers into Israeli territory, if the aggression of the occupation continues."
"Approximately one million Zionists will be within the range of our missiles if the Zionist enemy’s decision is to continue its aggression," a Hamas spokesman said.
Earlier, Gaza’s militant factions made direct threats on the cities of Ashdod and Beersheba. Attacks on those cities, with populations of approximately 25,000 and 200,000 respectively, are rare and considered a major escalation.
An IDF spokesman said that the army was prepared to step up its retaliation in the Palestinian enclave if the rocket bombardment continued, but said that it would refrain from calling up reserve forces for now.
“There is ample room for additional targets,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said. “We have signaled to Hamas over the course of this night that we have the intelligence and ability to strike a variety of military targets that belong to Hamas.”
The IDF had earlier said it was readying to recruit reservists, in a move that would signal preparation for a larger-scale ground operation in Gaza.
Despite the ongoing attacks, the IDF said Tuesday it was relaxing directives for residents in the border region, authorizing schools to reopen and work to resume so long as residents remained in proximity to protected areas.
One man has been killed and dozens more have been injured in a series of massive missile and mortar attacks that began late Monday afternoon and continued overnight and Tuesday, during which some 400 projectiles have been fired from Gaza at southern Israeli communities.
Six Palestinians have been killed in Israeli retaliatory strikes against hundreds of militant targets throughout the Strip. Two of the deceased were identified as members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine militant group and the third as a member of Islamic Jihad's armed wing.
Two more Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes Tuesday morning, one targeting a militant who was part of a group launching projectiles at its territory and another seen attempting to breach the security fence.
A Palestinian civilian wounded in a previous Israeli strike was also confirmed dead Tuesday.
The escalation in violence has sparked fears that a fourth war between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s ruling Hamas is on the horizon.
The massive flare-up in violence began on Monday afternoon after an anti-tank guided missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit a civilian bus that had reportedly just moments before been filled with dozens of Israeli troops.
The attack on the bus came on the heels of a clash between IDF special forces and local Hamas fighters during a rare Israeli ground mission inside the Gaza Strip overnight Sunday during which one Israeli soldier and seven Palestinians, including a local commander for Hamas' armed wing, were killed.
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