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Israel’s leaders weighed the benefits and risks of sending tanks and infantry into the densely populated coastal enclave two months before an Israeli election, and indicated they would prefer a diplomatic path backed by world powers, including U.S. President Barack Obama, the European Union and Russia.
The White House said Clinton was going to the Middle East for talks in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Cairo to try to calm the conflict. An Israeli source said she was expected to meet Netanyahu on Wednesday.
Netanyahu and his top ministers debated their next moves in a meeting that lasted into the early hours of Tuesday.
“Before deciding on a ground invasion, the prime minister intends to exhaust the diplomatic move in order to see if a long-term ceasefire can be achieved,” a senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said after the meeting.
A delegation of nine Arab ministers, led by the Egyptian foreign minister, was due in Gaza later on Tuesday in a further signal of heightened Arab solidarity with the Palestinians.
EGYPT KEY PLAYER
Any diplomatic solution may involve Egypt, Gaza’s other neighbour and the biggest Arab nation, where the ousting of U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak and the election of Mursi is part of a dramatic reshaping of the Middle East wrought by Arab uprisings and now affecting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mursi, whose Muslim Brotherhood was mentor to the founders of Hamas, on Monday took a call from Obama, who told him Hamas must stop rocket fire into Israel - effectively endorsing Israel’s stated aim in launching the offensive last week. Obama also said he regretted civilian deaths - which have been predominantly among the Palestinians.
“The two leaders discussed ways to de-escalate the situation in Gaza, and President Obama underscored the necessity of Hamas ending rocket fire into Israel,” the White House said, adding that the U.S. leader had also called Netanyahu.
“In both calls, President Obama expressed regret for the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives.”