ASIA NEWS by Joshua Lapide
According to Palestinian sources, the death toll has reached 172. Rockets continue to rain on Israel. Since the start of the conflict, Hamas has fired more than a thousand of them, 130 only yesterday. The UN Security Council unanimously approves a call for a ceasefire. But the belligerents seem unmoved.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - On the seventh day of war in Gaza, the latest reports indicate that Israeli air strikes hit three Qassam Brigades sites along the coast, as well as sites in Gaza City, Deir el-Balah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and the northern towns of Beit Lahiya and Jabaliya.
At least 172 Palestinians have been killed since Israel's offensive began, according to Palestinian officials. Israel says it is targeting Hamas militants and "terror sites". However, the United Nations has estimated that 77 per cent of the people killed in Gaza have been civilians.
More than 130 rockets hit Israel yesterday and more than a thousand have been launched since 8 July. Some rockets have also been fired from Lebanon and Syria.
One rocket hit an Israeli power facility that supplies Gaza, cutting electricity to 70,000 Palestinians in the territory, Israel's military said.
For now, Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system has so far been able to stop most incoming rockets before they hit cities and settlements. No Israeli has died, although some have been wounded.
As the situation gets worse with Israel's threatened ground invasion, diplomatic efforts have increased to stop the conflict.
Yesterday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a call for a ceasefire, but did not specify any deadline. The Pope made a "heartfelt appeal ... for peace in the Holy Land".
US Secretary of State John Kerry called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge a truce.
The foreign ministers of the Germany and Italy, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Federica Mogherini, are expected in the coming days in the Middle East. Mogherini is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The latter yesterday appealed to the United Nations for international protection.
Yet neither Israel nor Hamas seem willing to listen. Netanyahu is facing increasing pressure from within his cabinet to launch a ground attack, but while 90 per cent of Israelis support strikes at Hamas targets, support for a ground assault is less forthcoming.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would act "vigorously in order to achieve the goal of the operation -- the restoration of quiet for a long period while inflicting a significant blow on Hamas and the other terrorist organizations." However, he runs the risk of appearing weak, if rockets from Gaza continue to target Israeli cities.
Israel's military, which claims to have hit 1,300 "terrorist targets", yesterday dropped leaflets and phoned residents in the town of Beit Lahiya, north of Gaza, to urge them to leave as a prelude to an operation against "terrorists and the terrorist infrastructure."
For its part, Hamas, which is in financial difficulty and has recently seen a significant rise in the level of dissatisfaction among Gazans, "has nothing to lose," this according to Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a professor of political science at Gaza's Al Azhar University.
Notwithstanding the interest of some of its factions - and others in Israel - to undermine the agreement with Abbas, Hamas has to try to "stay alive" and every time a house is hit or someone dies, its popularity grows despite the Israeli accusations that it uses civilians as human shields.
What it is looking for is anything that will allow it to claim a propaganda victory and ease Egypt's economic blockade.
According to Israeli sources, Hamas has an arsenal of about 10,000 missiles, especially short-range rockets, which would enable it to hold out for about six weeks, too long for Israel.
On the other hand, a ground invasion aimed at eliminating all or most of launch sites would likely be too costly in terms of casualties.
All this shows that the room for diplomacy is quite limited. ASIANEWS IT REPORT