Secretary of State John Kerry is in Israel in hopes of finding an end to the bloody conflict in Gaza — now in its third week. (Via U.S. Department of State)
“In any kind of conflict, there is a concern about civilians … We are particularly trying to find a way to respond to their very significant needs.” (Via Euronews)
Hamas rejected the last attempt at a cease-fire — put forward by Egypt — saying the deal met none of its demands. (Via Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades)
So, what are those demands? The biggest one, according to foreign policy analyst Mark Perry, is the lifting of the Gaza blockade.
PERRY: “They wanted an end to the siege of Gaza. That shows international respect and respect of Israel — a concession they really need to get their economy going.” (Via PBS)
Israeli restrictions placed on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip have greatly affected the economy. The unemployment rate is well over 50 percent. And major sectors, like construction and manufacturing, have been crippled due to ban on most exports from Gaza. (Via Getty Images, Getty Images)
The Washington Post says many Palestinians saw the Egypt-negotiated deal as a return to the status quo. “In this quagmire, some in Gaza say they’d rather see the fighting continue than accept an unconditional cease-fire that would likely perpetuate the closure.”
Also, complicating things is Hamas’s distrust of the Egyptian government, which has in the past year cracked down on the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group, of which Hamas is an offshoot. (Via The New Republic, Time, RT)
But there is one reason to think Hamas may now be more inclined to come to the negotiating table.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is now backing the group’s conditions, which observers say could strengthen the Palestinian position at the negotiating table. (Via World Economic Forum / CC BY SA 2.0)
Specifically, Hamas wants guarantees that Israel will lift its blockade of Gaza, open all border crossings and release Hamas leaders from prison. (Via Getty Images)
ISMAIL HANIYEH, HAMAS DEPUTY LEADER: “The demands of our people are clear. The aggression must be stopped, and a guarantee should be given it would not be repeated. The blockade must be lifted, this unjust blockade that our Palestinian people are living in.” (Via Democracy Now)
Also Wednesday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said Israel’s military actions in the Gaza Strip could amount to war crimes. Over 600 Palestinians — most of them civilians — have died in recent fighting.