Gaza-based Hamas will not yield to any Israeli conditions for truce, the movement’s exiled leader Khaled Meshaal said on Monday, adding that Palestinian weapons had caught Israel “off guard.”
Speaking at a news conference in Cairo, Meshaal also said the two sides could reach a truce but there could also be an escalation and Hamas was ready for all possibilities.
“Whoever started the war must end it,” Meshaal said, adding that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested a ceasefire - an assertion the Jewish state immediately denied.
Israel bombed dozens of targets in Gaza on Monday for a sixth day on Monday, but mediator Egypt said a deal to end the fighting could be close.
Meshaal said Hamas did not want an escalation or to draw Israel into a land invasion. But he said Israel had failed to achieve its objectives in Gaza.
“The weapons of the resistance have caught the enemy off guard,” he said.
Ban Ki-moon in Cairo
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in Cairo Monday on the first leg of a visit in support of Egyptian-mediated efforts for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, an AFP correspondent at the airport said.
Ban is scheduled to meet Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr later in the evening and Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi on Tuesday.
He will also meet Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas as part of a growing push for a Gaza ceasefire, his spokesman said Monday.
“The secretary general wishes to add his diplomatic weight to these efforts, which are considerable and extremely important,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters from Cairo, where Ban arrived Monday.
The European Union foreign ministers Monday also called for an “immediate” halt to hostilities in Gaza and Israel.
“An immediate cessation of hostilities is in everyone’s interest, particularly at a time of instability in the region,” the bloc’s 27 ministers said in a statement.
“All attacks must end immediately as they cause unjustifiable suffering of innocent civilians.”
The statement said the EU backed the efforts of Egypt and others to mediate for a rapid ceasefire.
Alarming death toll
Two Palestinians were killed in a new Israeli air strike on central Gaza on Monday, pushing the death toll in six days of violence to more than 100, emergency services said.
“Two martyrs killed in a new Israeli strike east of al-Bureij (refugee camp) were taken to the al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah,” an emergency services statement said. The deaths pushed the overall Gaza toll to 101.
On his Facebook page, health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra listed Mohammed Tbail, killed in an air strike in Nusseirat refugee camp, as the 100th Palestinian fatality.
Qidra said the Palestinian dead included 24 children and 10 women. Ministry figures for the number of men killed in the conflict with Israel make no distinction between civilians and militants.
According to the ministry, 850 people have been wounded in Gaza since the hostilities began on Wednesday. They included 260 children and 140 women.
Israel puts its death toll since Wednesday at three civilians - two men and a woman killed by a rocket fired from Gaza. Police said more than 60 people have been wounded.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian shot by Israeli security forces during a weekend protest in the West Bank over Israel’s air campaign on Gaza, died on Monday of his injuries, hospital officials said.
“Rushdi al-Tamimi died today from his wounds,” Ahmed al-Betawi, director of the Ramallah hospital said. Friends told AFP he was 31.