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Sunday 21 September 2014

Peres breaks ranks with call to find end to conflict in Gaza

Ben Lynfield

Published 31/07/2014 | 02:30

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaking with former Israeli President Shimon Peres, right, last week
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaking with former Israeli President Shimon Peres, right, last week
Hospital workers and Israeli soldiers carry a stretcher with an Israeli soldier, wounded during Israel's offensive in Gaza, into Soroka hospital in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba
Hospital workers and Israeli soldiers carry a stretcher with an Israeli soldier, wounded during Israel's offensive in Gaza, into Soroka hospital in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba
Palestinians gather near a mosque that police said was destroyed by an Israeli Air strike in Gaza City
Palestinians gather near a mosque that police said was destroyed by an Israeli Air strike in Gaza City

Shimon Peres yesterday broke ranks with the prevalent mood in Israel and said it was time to "find a way to stop'' the 22-day war in Gaza.

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Mr Peres's comments, made hours before the security cabinet convened to decide whether to further escalate the war or try to move towards a diplomatic exit, were immediately denounced as defeatist by legislators in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.

Speaking to reporters while visiting wounded soldiers at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, the 91-year-old Mr Peres, pictured right, who ended his term as Israel's president last week, told the soldiers: "You fought amazingly. Each one of you is allowed to and must feel that he is a real hero."

The Nobel laureate later went out on a limb by saying that the military campaign, launched with the stated objective of halting rocket fire from Gaza, had "fulfilled itself... Now what is needed is to find a way to stop it.

"It will take more time, I don't know exactly how much, maybe days or a little more, but it will end".

It was unclear whether Mr Peres's call would serve as a bellwether, encouraging other politicians to come out in favour of winding up the hostilities, or would simply be ignored. Zeev Elkin, chairman of the Knesset's foreign affairs and defence committee, voiced consternation at Mr Peres.

"Is Israel supposed to stop defending its residents and raise a white flag?" he asked, adding: "Hamas still hasn't felt a blow that would cause it to stop firing."

Yesterday, an inten-sification of Israeli fire that began on Tuesday, when over 100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, continued despite Israel's declaring a limited "humanitarian window''.

Reports from Gaza said there were more than 30 fatalities during those four hours. (© Independent News Service)

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