Hello and welcome to BBC World News. Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza are on strike today to show their anger against ongoing Israeli airstrikes. Over two hundred people have died in the last week, nearly all of them Palestinian. The airstrikes against targets in Gaza have continued throughout the night and into today. The other way, a new barrage of rockets and mortar shells by Palestinian militants into southern Israel have killed two workers and injured seven more. The strike has shuttered businesses across the region and some of the strikes are on the streets in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
Israeli police used tear gas after clashes with the protesters. Paul Adams reports from Jerusalem.
Gaza’s punishment continues, more air strikes at dawn. Israel says this is not over. It doesn’t just want the rockets to stop. It wants its opponent crippled. It’s been hitting the homes of Hamas leaders. And destroying as much of their hardware as possible, Hamas still has plenty of rockets, but launchers are vulnerable and whole, I’m sure the directive is to continue striking terrorist targets. The IDF is doing this very well. We will continue to take whatever action is necessary to restore peace and security to all residents of Israel.
But international outrage is building over the civilian cost. Almost 40000 people have been displaced. The territory’s only covid testing lab partially destroyed. Kamal Hatzalah says he got a call from the Israeli army telling him to get out of his home, the house next door was bombed when he and his family returned. This is what they found in me. And my mother was with me at home. And now she is out in the streets with no shelter. And I also have no shelter for my children here.
The whole house is totally destroyed. In the West Bank, Palestinians are once again demonstrating over the situation in Gaza. There’s a general strike not just among Palestinians. It’s being observed by Israeli Arabs, too. But diplomatic efforts, much less visible, are now gathering pace. International mediators are trying hard to stop the fighting. And when the US president, Joe Biden, spoke to Mr Netanyahu last night, he called for a ceasefire for the first time.
The UN is heavily involved. Its envoy in Jerusalem, one of few officials actually talking to Hamas. With pressure mounting on Israel, its window of opportunity in Gaza is slowly closing. Paul Adams, BBC News, Jerusalem.
Well, I’ve been speaking to Tarek Adel, the Egyptian ambassador to the U.K., I asked him what conversations Egypt was having directly with Hamas.
Over the last few days, we’ve had many contacts with Palestinian factions in Gaza and in the rest of the Palestinian occupied territories. Also, we’ve had discussions and contacts with the Israelis with the hope that we can broker a cease fire agreement. We have all witnessed the volume of casualties on both sides. Last numbers go up to more than 200 deaths on the Palestinian side, including more than 60 children and women. Also, there has been casualties on the Israeli side, up to 10 so far.
Now, this should stop and we are hoping that the rest of the international community support us on this, that we need to have a priority in this conflict. The priority right now is to reach a ceasefire agreement after which we can have a serious discussion on how to resume peace negotiations between the two sides.
So just to get a clear ambassador, you are talking directly at the moment to Hamas as well.
We are talking to all sides that are party to the conflict, and when you make those contacts with Hamas, I mean, one of the conditions for the Israelis is this won’t stop until the rockets stop. Is that a message that you are reiterating and putting pressure on Hamas to do so?
We are using all the diplomatic tools at our disposal to reach a cease fire agreement. Now, if one side is going to say the other side has to stop first, this is not going to get us anywhere. That has to be an understanding on both sides that the escalation must stop and must stop now.
Now, you are in a very unique position, Ambassador, because a few people can speak to Hamas directly. And you have been in a position back in 2014 where you were able to broker some kind of fragile ceasefire, but you did broker that. Cairo is very much in the diplomatic driving seat here. So you can put that pressure on Hamas, can’t you? You do have leverage over the group.
Yes, we are speaking with them and we have indication that they would be willing to adhere to a ceasefire agreement if the Israelis on the other side adheres to it.
And again, that’s part of the problem of what you’re saying. Both sides are saying, well, the other side has to stop first. So where where does this end?
Well, I’m seeing and I’m hearing that the Israelis are saying that they have some goals to achieve and that they are only going to pursue these goals, which may take a day, two days, three days, whatever it takes now, which means that we cannot have a cease fire agreement now. And if this is the position, one would expect the other side not to adhere to any cease fire agreement. So there has to be an understanding that things have to stop and stop.
Now, there are casualties that are falling on both sides. And this is not time to blame one side or the other. Things have to stop now. Now we are working tirelessly. We have envoys in both Israel and the Palestinian territories and in Gaza. And we hope that our partners, including the UK, would weigh in on those efforts in order to build pressure on the Israelis as we are bearing pressure on the Palestinian side.