Hamas leader ready to accept truce with conditions as death toll continues to rise
Gaza fighting raged on Wednesday, displacing thousands more Palestinians in the battered territory, as Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called for a temporary truce to allow humanitarian relief into Gaza.
Israel launched its offensive on July 8 to halt rocket salvoes by Hamas and its allies, which have struggled under an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade on Gaza and been angered by a crackdown on their supporters in the nearby occupied West Bank.
After an aerial and naval bombardment failed to quell the outgunned guerrillas, Israel poured ground forces into the Gaza Strip last Thursday, looking to knock out Hamas's rocket stores and destroy a vast, underground network of tunnels. Palestine's death toll has risen to 692, the majority of whom are civilians.
Meshaal, speaking in Qatar, praised the group's fighters, whom he said had made gains against Israel and said he supported a humanitarian truce but a ceasefire would only be acceptable in exchange for easing Gazans' plight.
"We are very interested to have a humanitarian truce as we did last Thursday. We need the calm for a few hours to evacuate the wounded and assist in the relief... This means a real truce backed by a real relief programme offered to the people of Gaza," he said at a news conference.
The leader of the Islamist group, which controls Gaza, asked for the international community to help bring medicine, fuel and other supplies into the territory.
However, he said that any more permanent ceasefire could only come about after Israel ended its siege, and could only be implemented after it had been fully negotiated.
"Everyone wanted us to accept a ceasefire and then negotiate for our rights, we reject this and we reject it again today," he said.
He said that despite efforts to broker a more lasting ceasefire, there had been no breakthrough.