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“The Egyptians have been a pipeline for passing messages. Hamas always turns (to them) to request a ceasefire. We are in contact with the Egyptian defence ministry. And it could be a channel in which a ceasefire is reached,” he told Israeli radio.
At the same time, there were signs of possible preparations for a ground assault on Gaza. In pre-dawn strikes, warplanes bombed open land along the border zone with Israel, in what could be a softening-up stage to clear the way for tanks.
Self-propelled heavy artillery was seen near the border.
The United States has asked countries that have contact with Hamas to urge the Islamist movement to stop its recent rocket attacks from Gaza, a White House adviser said.
“We’ve … urged those that have a degree of influence with Hamas, such as Turkey and Egypt and some of our European partners, to use that influence to urge Hamas to de-escalate,” Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, said in a conference call with reporters.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in an interview with Voice of America: “I understand the reasons Israel is doing what they’re doing. They’ve been the target of missiles coming in from Gaza … .”
EGYPT ON THE SPOT
The Gaza conflagration has stoked the flames of a Middle East ablaze with two years of Arab revolution and a civil war in Syria that threatens to engulf the whole region.
Hamas refuses to recognise Israel’s right to exist. By contrast, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who rules in the nearby West Bank, does recognise Israel, but peace talks between the two sides have been frozen since 2010.
Abbas’s supporters say they will push ahead with their plan to become an “observer state” rather than a mere “entity” at the United Nations later this month.
Despite fierce opposition from both Israel and the United States, they look certain to win the vote in the General Assembly, where they have a built a majority of supporters.