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WHO renews call for ‘localized cease-fires’ to evacuate wounded, deliver aid in Gaza

July 25, 2014 at 6:06 PM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Diplomatic efforts to bring a cease-fire to the conflict between Israel and Hamas appeared to come up empty-handed again. But, late today, it was reported Israel’s prime minister told U.S. Secretary of State Kerry they would start a 12-hour pause beginning tomorrow morning.

For now, the violence continues. All told, more than 820 Palestinians have been killed. In Israel, 38 people have been killed. And the government rejected a U.S. plan for a seven-day halt to the bloodshed.

The word came after another day of near constant explosions across Gaza City. Israeli news reports said the security cabinet rejected the cease-fire proposal, giving the army more time to destroy Hamas tunnels. A government spokesman argued earlier that the burden is on the militants.

MARK REGEV, Spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister: Israel has shown where it is on these issues. Hamas, unfortunately, has not been willing for a cease-fire, and we heard the leader of Hamas yesterday, Khaled Meshaal, put so many preconditions on a cease-fire as to make it impossible.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Hamas has demanded the end of the economic blockade of Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners. It didn’t publicly respond to this latest cease-fire proposal.

The U.S., Egypt and the U.N. called for a week-long halt in the fighting, to begin Sunday, as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan comes to an end, followed by talks on economic, political and security concerns.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We still have some terminology in the context of the framework to work through. But we are confident we have a fundamental framework that can and will ultimately work.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Secretary of State John Kerry had delayed his departure from Cairo, Egypt, to pursue the peace effort.

JOHN KERRY: At this moment, we are working towards a brief seven days of peace, seven days of a humanitarian cease-fire in honor of Eid, in order to be able to bring people together to try to work to create a more durable, sustainable cease-fire for the long run.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The conflict, meanwhile, raged on. One airstrike today killed the head of media operations for Hamas ally Islamic Jihad, along with his son.

And Hamas kept up its rocket fire, some of it again intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. More rockets were aimed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, where warning sirens sent travelers scrambling from the terminal lobby. On the ground, there was heavy fighting in Northern and Central Gaza on the heels of yesterday’s fierce battles. At least 15 of yesterday’s victims died when a U.N. school in Northern Gaza was hit.

Today, as the two sides blamed each other for that incident, the World Health Organization appealed again for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate the wounded.

JENS LAERKE, Spokesman, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: People are dying at an alarming rate, being injured at a very alarming rate. We are calling for this, if you like, localized cease-fires, whereby the wounded can be evacuated, and we can access people with both health care and other kinds of relief.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Anger over the situation in Gaza boiled over in the West Bank again today. Palestinian officials said five people were killed in clashes with Israeli forces there. There were more anti-Israeli protests worldwide as well.

In Iran, thousands marched in the streets for the annual Al-Quds Day, a march held on the last Friday of Ramadan to show support for Palestinians. Other rallies took place in Pakistan, Germany, Belgium, and Turkey.