Saturday 20 December 2014

Pressure on Israel to hold truce talks as civilian death toll rises

Damien McElroy Jerusalem

Published 19/11/2012 | 05:00

Palestinian Yoused Abu Khoussa carries the body of his one-year-old son Iyad who was killed in Israeli strikes on Sunday
Smoke and flames rise after Israeli air strikes in Gaza City

Israel was under intense diplomatic pressure last night to accept ceasefire talks brokered by Egypt to end the confrontation with militants in Gaza, as the civilian death toll escalated sharply.

As the scope of Israel's 'Operation Pillar of Defence' was widened to a broader range of targets, increasing the risk of collateral damage, US President Barack Obama offered strong support for Israeli's right to defend itself.

But he demanded ceasefire talks to prevent a "ramping up" of fighting and said it would be "preferable" for Israel to avoid a military thrust into the densely populated Gaza Strip.

"We're actively working with all parties in the region to see if we can end those missiles being fired without further escalation of violence in the region," he said. "If this can be accomplished without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that is preferable."

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said that he and David Cameron had warned the government of Benjamin Netanyahu that "a ground invasion of Gaza would lose Israel a lot of the international support".

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