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Obama demands an immediate, unconditional ceasefire in Gaza

Senior US official calls reports of Kerry truce draft, that imply secretary of state betrayed Israel, 'inaccurate and insulting.'

Yitzhak Benhorin, Attila Somfalvi, Elior Levy
Published: 07.28.14, 00:00 / Israel News

US President Barack Obama spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone on Sunday, demanding an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that would later lead to a permanent end to hostilities in Gaza based on the 2012 ceasefire agreement reached at the end of Operation Pillar of Defense.

 

 

The conversation between the two came at the end of a tense day for Israeli-American diplomatic relations.

 

Israeli officials slammed US Secretary of State John Kerry after a document allegedly presenting his ceasefire proposal was published by Haaretz.

 

The document, that was is supposed to serve as the basis of ceasefire negotiations between Hamas and Israel, reportedly made scarce reference to Israel's security needs.

 

The newspaper claimed that the draft banned Israel from destroying the terror tunnels that entered Israeli territory from Gaza during a proposed seven-day humanitarian ceasefire. Haaretz also said that Hamas' demands were all met in the draft, including opening of border crossings, passage of goods, and payment of civil servant salaries. However, there is no mention, Haaretz said, of Israel's central demand for the Gaza Strip to be demilitarized and the terror tunnels destroyed.

 

A senior American official claimed the reports on the content of the document were "inaccurate" and even "insulting" towards the United States.

 

"A part of these reports included personal attacks against Secretary of State Kerry, including accusations he betrayed the alliance with Israel," the official said.

 

Were you offended by the criticism in Israel?

"There were a few reports regarding our efforts that weren't accurate and included distortions of Kerry's strategy. These were serious attacks with very insulting accusations including betrayal of Israel."

 

Who wrote the draft?

"It was a product of conversations with a few of the involved parties. I can't elaborate on that."

 

What is the US position on the disarmament and rehabilitation of Gaza?

"These are important issues for the ceasefire. It'll be a part of the negotiations following the ceasefire."

 

On Saturday night, an American official familiar with the ceasefire efforts in the region said that as far as Washington was concerned - Israel would have freedom to act as it sees fit following the ceasefire, at least as far as the destruction of the tunnels are concerned.

 

In his call with Netanyahu on Sunday night, Obama reaffirmed American support of the Egyptian ceasefire initiative.

 

The US president once again condemned Hamas' rocket fire, and reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself, while at the same time expressing Washington's growing concern of the rising number of Palestinian and Israeli casualties and the worsening humanitarian condition in Gaza.

 

"The President underscored the enduring importance of ensuring Israel’s security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza’s long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority," a White House statement said.

 

"The President stressed the US view that, ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza," it went on to say.

 

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas left for Saudi Arabia on Sunday night to meet with King Abdullah and the rest of the Saudi leadership, which expressed sweeping support of the original Egyptian offer.

 

Abbas is trying to form an Arab alliance that bypasses Hamas, Qatar and Turkey, and includes Saudi, Egypt and the PA.

 

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