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Clinton arrives in Israel for peace talks

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Israel amid hopes that the US can help end the violence in the Middle East.

PT1M38S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-29p2v 620 349

Gaza City: AS MIDDLE EAST leaders work with the US Secretary of  State, Hillary Clinton, to broker  a ceasefire agreement acceptable to  Israel and Hamas, United Nations ambassadors in New York announced the Security Council would hold an open debate on the  crisis on Wednesday afternoon if a ceasefire is not called before then.

The open debate would break a week of silence in the council. After hours of closed-door meetings in the council on Tuesday, the ambassadors of India, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority all emerged to announce the council had agreed to the debate.

The move comes after the United States blocked adoption of a unanimous press statement from the council because it did not explicitly criticise Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israel.

A Russian draft resolution calling for a ceasefire and halt to violence, expressing support for international and regional mediation efforts and urging the Palestinians and Israelis to resume broader Middle-East peace talks, remains stalled.

In Jerusalem, Mrs Clinton said, ‘‘The American commitment to Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering,’’  at a brief press appearance with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, before the two entered closed-door talks.  ‘‘That is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation’’ in the Palestinian territory, she said, also welcoming  Egyptian mediation efforts.

Mrs Clinton was speaking only moments into a regional tour that will also take her on Wednesday to the West Bank city of Ramallah and on to Cairo for talks with Egypt’s President, Mohammed Mursi. Her arrival in Jerusalem coincided with speculation that a Gaza truce announcement by the two sides was in the works and could come  within hours.

With the death toll Tuesday standing at five Israelis dead, including a soldier, and more than 139 Gazans,  a senior official announced Israel had delayed its decision on whether to launch a ground invasion by 24 hours to allow Egypt more time to broker the  ceasefire. At one point, Hamas officials  late on Tuesday indicated a ceasefire would come into effect at midnight,  but  both Egypt and Israel then downplayed reports that an agreement had been reached.

The Israel Defence Forces said more than 140 rockets had been fired by militants into the country’s south, hitting the cities of Be’er Sheeva and Ashdod, while one rocket hit a building in the city of Rishon Le’Zion, near Tel Aviv. The dead soldier was named as Corporal  Yosef Fartuk, 18, from Emmanuel.

Before Mrs Clinton’s visit, Mr Netanyahu said ‘‘I prefer a diplomatic solution, I hope that we can get one, but if not, we have every right to defend ourselves with other means and we shall use them.’’

In Gaza, Israel continued its air strikes overnight on Tuesday targeting  sites in Gaza City and dropping leaflets urging residents to evacuate for their own safety.

There were chaotic scenes at the city’s major hospital, a stream of ambulances, minibuses and private cars arrived carrying multiple dead and wounded. At one point an ambulance was arriving every minute as  Hamas soldiers waved them through the crowds.

Gaza’s medical officials say at least 19 people were killed during Tuesday attacks, including several children, while in Israel a soldier was killed in a rocket strike in the Eshkol region, the IDF confirmed.

 As Gazans and media gathered at Shifa Hospital for the arrival of the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the Arab League delegation, a long-range missile was fired from nearby, streaking through the sky towards Jerusalem shortly after 2pm.

It was the second time a rocket had been launched toward Jerusalem since Israel’s Gaza offensive began last Wednesday.

Palestinians in the West Bank village of Surif, south of Jerusalem, said a rocket fell nearby, Maan news agency reported, while witnesses said a rocket landed near the Bat Ayin settlement. No sooner was the rocket – believed to be an Iran-build Fajr-5 or an enhanced rocket known as a M75 – fired than the Israeli airstrikes began, the boom of the missile strikes punctuated by the wail of ambulance sirens throughout the coastal strip.

‘‘Over the past hour, we targeted 20 terror sites in the Gaza Strip,’’ the IDF spokesperson tweeted at 8.41pm local time, while the airstrikes and shelling from navy boats stationed off the coast continued well into the night.

with Associated Press, Telegraph, London, and agencies