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Clinton Steps in as Israel-Gaza Truce Deal is Put on Hold

By CBS News & Israel National News

A diplomatic push to end Israel's nearly weeklong offensive in the Gaza Strip gained momentum Tuesday, with Egypt's president predicting that airstrikes would soon end, the U.S. secretary of state racing to the region and Israel's prime minister saying his country would be a "willing partner" to a cease-fire with the Islamic terrorist group Hamas.

As international diplomats worked to cement a deal, a senior Hamas official said an agreement was close even as relentless airstrikes and rocket attacks between the two sides continued. The Israeli death toll rose to five with the deaths Tuesday of an Israeli soldier and a civilian contractor. More than 130 Palestinians have been killed.

CBS "Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley noted things looked frosty between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. She had just flown 10 hours, leaving behind President Barack Obama behind on a tour of Cambodia to speak with the Israeli leader about the escalating conflict.

Clinton and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made statements to the press shortly before they met one on one. Netanyahu welcomed Clinton to Jerusalem and noted that Israel was fighting against terrorists who fire barrages of rockets against innocent civilians.

"One of the things that we are doing is trying to resist and counter a terrorist barrage which is aimed directly at our civilians and doing so by minimizing civilian casualties, whereas the terrorist enemies of Israel are doing everything in their power to maximize the number of civilian casualties," Netanyahu told Clinton. "Obviously, no country can tolerate a wanton attack on its civilians."

Clinton said, "President Obama asked me to come to Israel with a very clear message. America's commitment to Israel's security is rock solid and unwavering. That is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza. The rocket attacks from terrorist organizations inside Gaza on these (Israeli) cities and towns must end and a broader calm restored. The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike."

The Secretary of State praised Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi for taking an active role in trying to achieve a ceasefire. "We appreciate President Morsi's leadership. As a regional leader, Egypt" has the opportunity to promote the ceasefire process, she noted.

Clinton mentioned the Iron Dome anti-missile system, which has been fundamental in saving the lives of Israelis during Gaza rocket attacks, saying, "Our partnership and support of this system represents America's enduring commitment to the safety and security of the Israeli people, and to Israel's right to defend itself. But no defense is perfect, and our hearts break for the loss of every civilian, Israeli and Palestinian, and for all those who have been wounded or who are living in fear and danger, I know today was a difficult day, and I offer my deepest condolences to the loved ones of those who were lost and injured.

"In these days ahead, the United States will work with our partners here in Israel and across the region for an outcome that bolsters security for the peace of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region," she said.

Netanyahu told Clinton he was ready to agree to a "long-term solution" as long as the rocket attacks from Gaza stopped. "If there's a possibility of achieving a long-term solution for this problem by diplomatic means, we prefer it. But if not, I'm sure you understand that Israel will have to take every action necessary to defend its people." .
CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward said an unidentified adviser to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi had said Morsi would announce a cease-fire agreement Tuesday night in Cairo, where talks are being held. Nearly an hour after the expected time of the announcement, the adviser said it wasn't going to happen Tuesday night.

A spokesperson for Morsi's party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, later said the delay was due to an Israeli request to postpone the announcement until Wednesday According to the source, Israel wants Hamas to stop rocket fire for an initial 24 hours, and then the Jewish state would theoretically meet some of the militant group's demands.

Ward notes, however, that previous remarks from diplomats suggesting a deal was near have proven premature, as Israel is reluctant to accept Hamas' key demand that a blockade on the Gaza Strip be lifted. Israel fears that lifting the blockade would allow more weapons to flow into the Palestinian territory.

Israeli officials said only that "intensive efforts" were under way to end the fighting. Israeli media quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak as telling a closed meeting that Israel wanted a 24-hour test period of no rocket fire to see if Hamas could enforce a truce. Morsi, perhaps the most important interlocutor between Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory, and the Israelis, said the negotiations between the two sides would yield "positive results" during the coming hours.

Israel demands an end to rocket fire from Gaza and a halt to weapons smuggling into Gaza through tunnels under the border with Egypt. It also wants international guarantees that Hamas will not rearm or use Egypt's Sinai region, which abuts both Gaza and southern Israel, to attack Israelis.

Hamas wants Israel to halt all attacks on Gaza and lift tight restrictions on trade and movement in and out of the territory that have been in place since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007. Israel has rejected such demands in the past.

In Brussels, a senior official of the European Union's Foreign Service said a cease-fire would include an end of Israeli airstrikes and targeted killings in Gaza, the opening of Gaza crossing points and an end to rocket attacks on Israel. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Violence raged on as the talks continued. An airstrike late Tuesday killed two journalists who work for the Hamas TV station, Al-Aqsa, according to a statement from the channel. The men were in a car hit by an airstrike, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Israel claims that many Hamas journalists are involved in militant activities. Earlier this week it targeted the station's offices, saying it served as a Hamas communications post.

By Tuesday, 133 Palestinians, including at least 54 civilians, were killed since Israel began an air onslaught that has so far included nearly 1,500 strikes. Some 840 people have been wounded, including 225 children, Gaza health officials said.

Five Israelis, including an 18-year-old soldier and a civilian contractor who worked for the military struck by rocket fire Tuesday, have also been killed and dozens wounded since the fighting began last week, the numbers possibly kept down by a rocket-defense system that Israel developed with U.S. funding. More than 1,000 rockets have been fired at Israel this week, the military said.

CBS correspondent Charlie D'Agata reported that in the streets of Gaza, militants shot dead six Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. One body was dragged through the street as people cheered.

Late Tuesday, a Palestinian rocket hit a house in the central Israeli city of Rishon L'Tzion, wounding two people and badly damaging the top two floors of the building, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

`Protests in Rishon L'Tzion, Be'er Sheva Against Cease-fire

By Israel National News

Dozens of people protested in Be'er Sheva Tuesday night, demanding that the IDF follow through and finish its mission in Gaza. The protest was organized spontaneously just a few hours earlier on Facebook, as talk increased in the media of a possible cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

Protestors shouted slogans demanding that the IDF destroy Hamas, and that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his government not quit the battle before it is won. There were also numerous calls for the IDF to embark on a land invasion of Gaza.

About 20 rockets fired by Gaza Arab terrorists hit Be'er Sheva Tuesday. A building in a residential neighborhood was hit directly, while another rocket hit a busy road in the city, causing a major traffic jam in the city.

Meanwhile, in Rishon L'Tzion, where a rocket earlier hit an apartment building, spontaneous protests broke out demanding that the IDF enter Gaza and destroy Hamas, and residents shouted slogans against the government's negotiations for a cease-fire.

An Israeli woman believed to be in her late 50s was wounded Tuesday evening in what appears to have been a terrorist attack. The incident took place near the city of Beitar Illit, south of Jerusalem.

The victim reached an IDF checkpoint, where soldiers called for help. Paramedics said the woman had suffered neck and head wounds and were semiconscious. Doctors said the woman is in moderate-to-serious condition. A second female driver attacked in the area is in light condition. The first woman's injuries appear to have been caused by both rocks thrown at her car and a Molotov cocktail. It was initially believed that she had been hit by gunfire.

The rabbinic organization Tzohar has opened a hotline for residents of southern Israel whose homes have been targeted by Hamas in its latest terror offensive. The hotline will provide expert answers in matters of Jewish law (halakha), as well as psychological assistance and guidance on various topics, including handling children's trauma.

Several of the Tzohar rabbis are trained psychologists. "During this time of war, every rabbi in Israel must think, `How can I give of my knowledge and abilities to my brothers in the south,'" said Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, who initiated the creation of the hotline.

"The hotline is meant to provide halachic answers to questions that came up due to the fighting, but primarily aims to provide some `psychological first aid,' to parents who need to protect their children and deal with their fears," he continued. "Sometimes these stressful situations also create trouble between spouses, and there, too, rabbis who deal with these issues on a daily basis can help."

For Israel, a Truce is the Worst of All Worlds

By DEBKAfile (Analysis)

DEBKAfile's analysts say that by giving in to international pressure for a ceasefire, Israel's leaders Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman would show they have failed to learn from their predecessors' mistakes in ending the last two wars against terrorists inconclusively and prematurely.

After those wars, Israeli civilians were again thrust into the front line against missiles. In 2006, it was the population of northern Israel; in 2012, a million people living in southern Israel are in this intolerable predicament. And after Hamas's rockets reached Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for this first time in this round of Palestinian missile aggression, the next round will no doubt spill over into the central Israeli heartland as well.

Tens of thousands of soldiers and reservists were meanwhile held on the Gaza border in suspense for a ground incursion. They stood there and watched as the missiles flew over their heads to explode in their towns and villages and in Cairo, the politicians wrangled over an early ceasefire.

Operation Pillar of Cloud was kicked off November 14 with the targeted assassination of one of Israel's most implacable enemies, Ahmed Jabari, commander of the Hama military wing, amid high hopes that this time it would be different. They were heartened by the IDF's recovery of its legendary speed, precision and inventiveness and trusted the troops to finish the job left undone by Cast Lead in 2008. Israel's political and military leaders fervently vowed not to stop until lost deterrence was regained, Palestinian missile and terror capabilities were degraded and the people of the south could at last lead normal lives.

Hamas and Jihad Islami were caught off-balance by the loss of the Hamas commander in chief and the highly successful air operation which followed. But instead of seizing this moment for rapid in-and-out, lightning ground incursions against well-defined targets, the three Israeli ministers paused. The chance then passed into the hands of the terrorists who used it to send their Iran-made missiles against Greater Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. At that instant, they multiplied their million targets to five. Israel responded by calling up 75,000 IDF reserves and pouring 68,000 troops onto jumping-off stations along the Gaza border ready for an incursion.. One lesson was drawn from the 2006 conflict against the Lebanese Hizbullah: Missiles cannot be stopped by air strikes.

The IDF spokesman Brig. Yoav Mordecai then started releasing upbeat televised communiqués announcing that the air offensive had so far degraded 30%, 40% and then 50% of the Palestinian missile capacity. However, as he spoke, Hamas somehow managed to expand the radius and intensity of its missile blitz until,

Finally Tuesday, on Day 7 of the Israeli operation, they landed two massive salvoes of 16 Grad missiles each on Be'er Sheva's quarter of a million inhabitants. By then, the military had sensed that the three ministers running the operation were dithering between embarking on a ground operation to finish what they started and giving in to the mounting international pressure to accept a profitless ceasefire.

With US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now in Israel, it was clear they had missed the boat for independent decision-making. The Israeli public was informed by the media that the negotiations for a truce with Hamas and Jihad Islami led by Egypt were heavy going but approaching an announcement.

Rabbi: Bnei Brak Won't be Hit by Missiles

By YnetNews

While neighboring Tel Aviv is being targeted by Gaza's terror organizations, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky has chosen to convey a calming message to the residents of his hometown, promising them that the city of Bnei Brak will not be hit by missiles.

Kanievsky, a senior Lithuanian rabbi and one of the most important rabbis in Bnei Brak, published a letter on the front page of the Yated Ne'eman daily, which was sent to different rabbis. "When Chazon Ish of blessed memory (Rabbi Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz) said that there will be no bombs in Bnei Brak… that will certainly happen today too," Kanievsky wrote.

The rabbi, who is the nephew of Chazon Ish (an Orthodox rabbi who was one of the leaders of haredi Judaism in Israel) noted that "the words of righteous men are not necessarily abolished after their death" as the reason for Chazon Ish's promise still being valid today. He also promised that "there is nothing to be afraid of."

The rabbi's letter in the Lithuanian journal follows advice he gave to a student from a yeshiva in southern Israel not to return to his learning institution but to remain in Bnei Brak. Residents like to mention the fact that during the first Gulf War, missiles hit all the cities surrounding Bnei Brak, but not a single missile landed inside their city.

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