Israel halts ground offensive as diplomats head to peace talks in Cairo: reports


An Israeli soldier jumps from a tank in a deployment area as the conflict between Palestine and Gaza enters its seventh day on November 20, 2012 on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip.


Lior Mizrahi

Israel has reportedly halted its threatened ground offensive of Gaza as top diplomats flew in to join Egyptian-led truce talks in Cairo.

The move came after UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged both Israel and Gaza militants to halt their fire "immediately" during talks in Cairo aimed at ending nearly a week of cross-border violence, the Australian Associated Press reported.

President Barack Obama also dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from Cambodia to speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, as well as Palestinian authorities.

More from GlobalPost: Hillary Clinton heads to Middle East to help negotiate Israel-Gaza truce

A Palestinian source said Clinton would visit Ramallah in the West Bank on Wednesday.

Israeli officials told the BBC that any planned ground invasion of Gaza had been put on hold while the ceasefire continued.

Netanyahu had even telephoned Obama to discuss the matter after Israeli ministers had met late into the night to discuss the Egyptian truce proposal.

"Israel wants talks to succeed but we're prepared to go into Gaza," the spokesman told the BBC.

Israel is reportedly looking for a 24- to 48-hour truce, with Tuesday's ceasefire talks "expected to be decisive," Haaretz newspaper wrote.

"It's now a 50-50 between a ceasefire and expanding the operation," a senior Israeli official told the paper. "We would prefer a diplomatic solution but, if we have no choice, we'll go into Gaza. There is no other way."

Monday night was the first in six days of Israeli attacks that no Palestinian fatalities were recorded, although it followed the bloodiest day of the conflict, during which more than 30 Palestinians were killed.

According to Agence France-Presse, six Palestinians were killed Tuesday, raising the total Palestinian death toll to 116. Three Israelis have died in the six days of fighting.

AFP reported that more than 920 people had been injured in the Israeli bombing campaign — retaliation, Israel said, for continued rocket fire into Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.