Israel agrees to brief bombing break in Gaza
The daily three-hour pause comes amid indications that cease-fire talks may be near.
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Israel's army said that among those who died at the school were "members of the military wing of the Hamas terror organization" who had fired on Israeli forces, Bloomberg reports. Israel says that Hamas and other militants use such civilian centers to launch attacks in a cynical effort to create human shields.Skip to next paragraph
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Israeli leaders say their offensive in Gaza is aimed at stopping rocket attacks by militants on Israeli civilians. On Dec. 27, the first day of the offensive, daily rocket attacks peaked at 76. That number is now fewer than 40. Up to 3,200 rockets and mortar shells have been fired into Israel since the start of 2008.
The Guardian reports that the latest cease-fire plan emerged after talks Tuesday between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak. Israel's cabinet was to meet Wednesday to consider the plan, as well as assess the military campaign in Gaza. Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may opt to widen the offensive, however, despite the international pressure.
Sarkozy said he had presented the idea to Olmert. "I have good hope that the reaction of Israeli authorities will allow us to imagine an end to the operation they have undertaken in Gaza: that is, not only a ceasefire but a withdrawal."
The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said she was "pleased" at the initiative, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, gave his support. Abbas had given an emotional appeal for a ceasefire to the UN security council. "Do not let one more Palestinian mother cry for her children. Do not allow it. Put an end to the massacre of my people. Let my people live, and let my people be free," he said.
Israel has yet to respond to the proposal but has been insisting in recent days that any deal must prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza across the Egyptian border.