Tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories remained high Friday as Israel rejected a cease-fire proposal from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry amid ongoing clashes between protesters and Israeli authorities in the West Bank and Gaza.
At least five Palestinians were killed near the Qalandiyah checkpoint in the West Bank and another 200 injured after Israeli security forces fired live rounds into the crowd, reports The Los Angeles Times. An Israeli military spokesman told the Washington Post that an estimated 10,000 protesters “were rioting violently” on Thursday night, prompting the violent crackdown by riot police.
Israeli news outlets said the West Bank demonstrations were the largest since a five-year uprising in the territory ended in 2005. Palestinian leaders have called for the observance of a day of anger, which prompted Israel to dispatch thousands of security officials to Jerusalem's Old City ahead of Friday prayers.
A number of diplomatic envoys, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, have been canvassing the region to try to broker a truce.
In Cairo Friday for meetings with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Secretary Kerry called for a cease-fire on humanitarian grounds lasting at least five days amid a mounting civilian death toll in the conflict. Israeli's security cabinet met Friday in Tel Aviv to discuss the temporary cease-fire and rejected the proposal, which would have gone into effect Sunday, reports Haaretz.
The Egyptian government tabled a U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal earlier this month calling for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas before negotiations over a seven-year blockade of Gaza commence. Israel endorsed the deal, while Hamas has continued to call for an end to the siege before signing a truce.
“The Israelis somehow seem to think they can do something through Egypt, where the present regime hates Hamas as much as it hates its own Muslim brethren," Peter Sluglett, director of the Middle East Institute of National University of Singapore, tells TIME. "Really there is no future in that.”
Cairo has traditionally helped broker peace deals with Israel in the past, including the last cease-fire it signed with Hamas in 2012. However, experts say the calculus in Egypt has shifted since a military coup ousted the pro-Hamas Muslim Brotherhood from power a year ago.
Following the putsch, the Egyptian military dismantled numerous tunnels linking the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza, which has increased the choke hold on the Strip’s economy and brought Hamas’s finances to a breaking point.
“What is important to me is there should be a genuine guarantee to lift the siege on Gaza,” said Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal during an interview on BBC’s Hardtalk this week. “These promises have been made in the past. Nothing was done.”
Rather than continue to work through Cairo, analysts have suggested a shift to Qatar, where Meshaal is currently based.
“I genuinely believe that the international community should do a few things,” says Sultan Barakat, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center. “One is maybe turn its attention to Qatar instead of Egypt as a potential place for mediation given that Qatar, unlike Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world, continues its contacts with Hamas.”
As diplomatic wrangling over a potential peace deal continued, Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip carried on.
The U.N. Offices for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Friday that 814 people in the Palestinian coastal territory have been killed since the military offensive began, the vast majority of whom are civilians. At least 37 Israelis have died during the fighting, including two civilians and a foreign laborer.
On Friday morning, the Israel Defense Forces reportedly struck 30 targets and claimed to kill a senior Islamic Jihad militant.