ABU DHABI: The Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who visited Gaza earlier this month, said in comments broadcast yesterday that Israel should lift its siege of the Gaza Strip.
In an interview with Aljazeera, the Emir also said that Israel would not halt its offensive in Gaza unless it met strong resistance.
“The nature of Israel means that it will not stop its aggression unless there is firm resistance like what happened in Gaza and with Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the south,” he said.
The offensive that started last Wednesday has killed 69 Palestinians, 11 of them yesterday when an Israeli missile flattened the home of one family. More than 500 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three civilians and wounding dozens.
The Emir was in Cairo on Saturday and yesterday where he held talks about Gaza with Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi and Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Qatar has carved a role for itself as a major player in both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Syrian civil war.
An Israeli missile attack that killed at least 11 Palestinian civilians included four children was apparently an attack on a top militant that brought a three-storey home crashing down.
International pressure for a ceasefire seemed certain to mount in response to the deadliest single incident in five days of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
Egypt has taken the lead in trying to broker a ceasefire and Israeli media said a delegation from Israel had been to Cairo for talks on ending the fighting, although a government spokesman declined to comment on the matter.
Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi met Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal and Islamic Jihad’s head Ramadan Shallah as part of the mediation efforts, but a presidency statement did not say if they were conclusive.
Izzat Risheq, a close aide to Meshaal, wrote in a Facebook message that Hamas would agree to a ceasefire only after Israel “stops its aggression, ends its policy of targeted assassinations and lifts the blockade of Gaza”.
Israel’s terms for ceasing fire, Moshe Yaalon, a deputy to the prime minister, wrote on Twitter: “If there is quiet in the south and no rockets and missiles are fired at Israel’s citizens, nor terrorist attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip, we will not attack.”
Gaza health officials said 72 Palestinians , 21 of them children and several women have been killed in Gaza since Israel’s offensive began. Hundreds have been wounded.
Israel gave off signs of a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-run enclave as the next stage in its offensive, billed as a bid to stop Palestinian rocket fire into the Jewish state. It also spelt out its conditions for a truce.
US President Barack Obama said that while Israel had a right to defend itself against the salvoes, it would be “preferable” to avoid a military thrust into the Gaza Strip. REUTERS