New Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond yesterday welcomed Israel’s acceptance of an Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire and called on Hamas to end all rocket fire on Israel.
Yesterday morning, Israel approved and implemented the ceasefire following a week in which more than 1,000 rockets have been fired at Israel and around 200 Palestinians are reported to have died. However, Hamas refused to accept the ceasefire and continued firing rockets at Israel, prompting a resumption of Israeli air strikes later in the day.
In a statement, Hammond said “I welcome Egypt’s ceasefire initiative … I also welcome Israel’s acceptance in principle of the terms of the proposed ceasefire agreement, and the Palestinian Authority’s endorsement of the Egyptian initiative. I call on Hamas and all militant factions in Gaza to take this opportunity to cease hostilities, ending all rocket fire into Israel, so that the bloodshed on both sides can stop.”
Speaking in Vienna, US Secretary of State John Kerry accused Hamas of “playing politics.” He candidly commented, “I cannot condemn strongly enough the actions of Hamas in so brazenly firing rockets in multiple numbers in the face of a goodwill effort to offer a ceasefire, in which Egypt and Israel worked together, that the international community strongly supports.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s President Shimon Peres met yesterday with former Prime Minister Tony Blair in Jerusalem. Both spoke in strong support of the prospect of a ceasefire, Peres emphasising, “We want an end to the fighting and we hope to see it soon.” He explained that, “The Palestinian people are not our enemies. The people of Gaza are not our enemies. We share the same aim, which is an end to terrorism.” Blair welcomed the Egyptian initiative, “calling on the parties to implement a ceasefire to give a chance for a proper, full and long-term solution to Gaza to be put in place.” He added that a long-term solution must be “one which gives Israel real and permanent security from rocket attacks, tunnels and terrorism.”