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Asked on Israel Radio about progress in the Cairo talks, Silvan Shalom, one of Netanyahu’s deputies, said: “There are contacts, but they are currently far from being concluded.”
Listing Israel’s terms for ceasing fire, Moshe Yaalon, another 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.”
Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip has so far drawn Western support for what U.S. and European leaders have called its right to self-defence, but there was also a growing number of appeals from them to seek an end to the hostilities.
British Foreign Minister William Hague said on Sky News that he and Prime Minister David Cameron “stressed to our Israeli counterparts that a ground invasion of Gaza would lose Israel a lot of the international support and sympathy that they have in this situation”.
Israel’s cabinet decided on Friday to double the current reserve troop quota set for the Gaza campaign to 75,000. Some 31,000 soldiers have already been called up, the military said.
A possible sweep into the Gaza Strip and the risk of heavy casualties it brings would be a significant gamble for Netanyahu, favoured to win a January election.
The last Gaza war, a three-week Israeli blitz and invasion four years ago, killed 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Thirteen Israelis died in the conflict.
The current flare-up around Gaza has fanned the fires of a Middle East ignited by a series of Arab uprisings and a civil war in Syria that threatens to spread beyond its borders.
One significant change has been the election of an Islamist government in Cairo that is allied with Hamas, which may narrow Israel’s manoeuvring room in confronting the Palestinian group. Israel and Egypt made peace in 1979.
Israel’s Iron Dome missile interceptor system has destroyed more than 200 incoming rockets from Gaza in mid-air since Wednesday, saving Israeli towns and cities from potentially significant damage.
However, one rocket salvo unleashed on Sunday evaded Iron Dome and wounded two people when it struck a house in the Mediterranean coastal city of Ashkelon, police said.