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Israel mulls over truce proposals

world Updated: Dec 31, 2008 21:33 IST

Israel mulled proposals for a truce to its Gaza offensive on Wednesday but ruled out any temporary halts, as jets pounded Hamas targets for a fifth day and the Islamists pummelled Israel with rockets.

Amid mushrooming protests around the globe, the world’s top diplomats scrambled to find a way to end one of Israel’s deadliest-ever offensives on Gaza that has so far killed at least 390 Palestinians. At least 25 per cent of those killed have been civilians, the UN said.

“The proposition by the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner for a unilateral temporary ceasefire is not useful as it is evident that Hamas will not stop firing rockets against Israel,” said the official on condition of anonymity.

A foreign ministry spokesman said that the Jewish state would only consider a permanent halt to its operation, under the condition that Hamas stops firing rockets and acquiring arms.

“There is a dialogue... aiming to reach a serious deal for a permanent ceasefire under certain conditions,” Yigal Palmor said.

Hamas blasted international truce proposals as unbalanced, with spokesman Fawzi Barhum saying they “put the executioner and the victim on equal footing.”

“All Arab and international intervention must focus on stopping the aggression, lifting the blockade and opening all border crossings,” he said. “Our ground forces are still deployed around the Gaza Strip and are ready to go in if given the order,” an army spokeswoman told said on Wednesday.

On the ground, Israeli jets continued to hammer Hamas targets throughout Gaza, carrying out more than 35 strikes overnight targetting government offices, weapon storage facilities and contraband tunnels, the army said.

Since being launched on Saturday, the Israeli offensive has killed at least 390 people, including 42 children, and wounded more than 1,900 others, according to Gaza medics.