- - Tuesday, November 20, 2012

JERUSALEM — Frantic efforts to reach a cease-fire in the 7-day-old Israel-Gaza conflict appeared stalled late Tuesday, after negotiators throughout the day confidently predicted an imminent truce and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton rushed to Israel to appeal for peace.

The fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip continued, as both sides stepped up attacks in a fierce finale before the presumed cease-fire would take hold.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants fired more than 150 rockets at Israel. For the first time since the fighting erupted a week ago, a rocket hit an apartment building in metropolitan Tel Aviv, in the city of Rishon LeZion.

The rocket, packed with nearly 200 pounds of explosives, caused widespread damage, but residents of the building escaped injury by fleeing to special rooms in their apartments that are hardened to protect them from bombs.

World leaders intervene

After Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raced to Israel on Tuesday ... more >

Foreign leaders converged on the region during the day to press both sides to accept a cease-fire mediated by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

Mrs. Clinton held a late-night meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government controls the West Bank but has no power in the Gaza Strip.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel would be a “willing partner” to a cease-fire with Hamas.

However, in a reference to Israel’s biblical warrior king, he warned: “Our hand is outstretched to those of our neighbors who want to make peace with us, and the other hand is firmly grasping the sword of David.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who also met with Mr. Netanyahu, urged “maximum restraint.”

“Further escalation benefits no one,” he said.

King Abdullah II of Jordan also called Mr. Netanyahu to urge a cease-fire. Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab nations that have peace treaties with Israel.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and a delegation of Arab foreign ministers expressed support for the Palestinians after meeting with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza.

“Turkey is standing by you,” he said. “Our demand is clear. Israel should end its aggression immediately and lift the inhumane blockade imposed on Gaza.”

Cease-fire confusion

Story Continues →