“The U.S. expects to see de-escalation on the path to a ceasefire,” said Blinken on Thursday morning.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
As a rumored Thursday morning ceasefire between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad failed to come into effect, the U.S. and other international players are upping pressure for a truce.
The White House said Wednesday that during the fourth phone call in a week’s time between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden urged the premier to wind down the fighting.
According to a statement, Biden told Netanyahu he expected to see “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.”
While the early hours of Thursday morning were relatively quiet, barrages of rockets launched from Gaza caused sirens to wail in the southern cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Beer Sheba, as well as border communities adjacent to the Strip.
The overnight lull seemed to be over, as an anti-tank missile launched from Gaza hit an IDF bus Thursday morning, lightly injuring one soldier.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted Thursday morning that he’d spoken with Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi about “efforts to end the violence in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza, which has claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children.”
“The U.S. expects to see de-escalation on the path to a ceasefire,” he added.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas landed in Israel Thursday and met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, touring an apartment building in Petach Tikvah that was hit by a rocket launched from Gaza. It’s believed that Maas’ visit will also serve to escalate pressure on Israel to agree to a truce.
The New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported that based on statements from Israeli and Hamas officials, a ceasefire is expected to be declared on Friday.
Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen flatly denied the rumors on Thursday during an interview on Kan public radio.
“No,” he said when asked if a ceasefire would come into effect on Friday. “We are definitely seeing very significant international pressure…but we will finish the operation when we decide we have attained our goals.”
But Hamas senior official Moussa Abu Marzouk contradicted Cohen’s statements, telling Reuters on Thursday that a ceasefire would happen in the near future.
“I expect a ceasefire to be reached within a day or two, and the ceasefire will be on the basis of mutual agreement,” he said.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., said that Israel was eager to end the fighting but had to achieve a level of deterrence that would mean long-term security for Israel’s citizens, particularly those living in Gaza-adjacent communities.
“For [a ceasefire] to happen…we have to feel that Hamas infrastructure has been hit significantly, and that it understands that it won’t be worth it to fire rockets again at Israeli citizens several weeks from now,” he told Kan.