Wheels Of Diplomacy Turn Toward Gaza

An Algerian student brandishes the Muslim holy book the Quran while shouting with others anti-Israeli slogans during a protest against the ongoing Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip, in Algiers, Jan. 5, 2008. (AP Photo) CBS

International pressure mounted Monday for a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian violence that has engulfed Gaza for 10 days.

CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports that the wheels of diplomacy have started to creak into action Monday. European diplomats and the French president were due to talk to Israeli officials about halting their nation's ground offensive and Egypt was set to try and convince Hamas to ease the rocket fire.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians are asking the U.N. Security Council to quickly adopt a resolution calling for an immediate end to Israeli attacks in Gaza and a permanent cease-fire including border monitors and an international force to protect civilians.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected in New York on Tuesday and hopes the council will adopt the Arab-backed resolution the same day, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Monday. Abbas lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007 and has his own administration in the West Bank.

Malki said as many as nine Arab foreign ministers are also flying to New York, along with the Arab League secretary-general, "to show harmony among Arabs" and support for a speedy end to the Israeli offensive.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who unsuccessfully proposed a two-day truce before the land invasion began, was due to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Abbas, who lost control of Gaza to Hamas in June 2007, on Monday.

While blaming Hamas for causing Palestinian suffering with rocket fire that led to the Israeli offensive, Sarkozy has condemned Israel's use of ground troops, reflecting general world opinion. Sarkozy and other diplomats making their way to the region are expected to press hard for a cease-fire.

U.S. President George W. Bush says he understands "Israel's desire to protect itself," offering his first public comments about the U.S. ally's massive ground invasion into Gaza.

Mr. Bush said he's still hopeful there will be a cease-fire, which he describes as a noble ambition. But the president says no peace deal will work unless it forces Hamas to stop its attacks.

After a weeklong air offensive, Israeli ground troops invaded Gaza late Saturday. CBS News correspondent Robert Berger reports there is house-to-house combat as troops search for Hamas tunnels, bunkers and weapons caches, according to Israeli military sources. Israel has also seized rocket launching sites in northern Gaza. The army says dozens of Hamas fighters have been killed.

Four young siblings were killed in a missile strike on a house east of Gaza City. Three other children died in a naval shelling of a Gaza City beach camp and three adult civilians died when a missile struck near a house of mourning in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, reports Berger. Three other adult civilians died in attacks elsewhere.

At least 10 Palestinian children were killed in the attacks, raising the known death toll from a new ground invasion to more than 80. The vast majority of confirmed deaths have been civilians, which has fueled international outrage. Gaza's biggest hospital said it was overwhelmed by the number of wounded.

Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert has been working alongside Palestinian surgeons in Gaza's largest hospital, in Shifa. In a telephone interview Sunday, he recounted the harrowing conditions and said anyone trying to depict this as a "clean war," was simply "a liar." .
As the bruising campaign continued, Islamic militant group continued to pummel southern Israel with more than two dozen rockets on Monday and promised to wait for Israeli soldiers "in every street and every alleyway."

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the offensive would go on until Israel achieved "peace and tranquility" for residents of southern Israel.

A European Union delegation including foreign policy chief Javier Solana was due to meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

The Czech Republic, which took over the 27-nation EU's presidency on Thursday, urged Israel to allow humanitarian relief aid into Gaza. German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke on the phone Sunday with Olmert and advocated a quick cease-fire in Gaza, her government said. Merkel also called for an end to the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip.

Turkey and Egypt, which have both been involved intimately in Mideast peacemaking, have denounced the ground offensive.
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