The day after an Israeli mortar killed 42 Palestinians taking shelter at a United Nations school in Gaza, diplomatic efforts to bring the fighting to a halt intensified. The most likely candidate for a ceasefire agreement is a proposal promoted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
How both sides view the deal is unknown for the time being. Israel wants the ceasefire to include a specialized international force to search out and destroy tunnels along the border between Gaza and Egypt to prevent Hamas from rearming and firing more rockets at Israeli towns. Hamas wants an end to Israel’s stranglehold on Gaza, and presumably the cessation of efforts to undermine their position in the enclave.
In the meantime, the Israelis have implemented a three-hour, every-other-day truce in order to allow humanitarian aid to reach the beleaguered population. As a result, hundreds of embattled Palestinians ventured outside on Wednesday to stock up on essentials, a much-needed respite given that three-quarters of the 1.5 million residents are currently without power, and hundreds of thousands are running low on food and without clean water.
As of Wednesday, the death toll in Gaza reached around 660, and the United Nations estimates that one-fourth are civilians. The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely crowded areas in the world, and Israeli artillery, tank and missile fire can easily cause civilian casualties and deaths.
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