Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview on Sunday he welcomed efforts by his Egyptian counterpart to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict but accused Hamas of rejecting the proposals.
He also said he could foresee a scaling back of the situation and stressed that Israel was taking great pains not to hit civilians in the Gaza Strip.
Asked by Britain’s Sky News television if he saw any possibility of a de-escalation of the conflict, he replied from Jerusalem: “As far as we are concerned, the answer is yes.
“We also appreciate the efforts of the president of Egypt (Mohamed Morsi) to introduce a ceasfire. But until now, Hamas has rejected the proposal of the Egyptian president.”
Hamas “don’t even listen to their Arab brothers,” he said.
“We don’t escalate at all. What Israel is doing is self defence.
“We don’t have any purpose to conquer Gaza.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday threatened to expand the assault on Hamas-run Gaza as the Jewish state pressed ahead with a fifth day of strikes, killing six people including four children as truce efforts intensified.
“Basically our purpose is peace; their purpose is to destroy Israel. It’s not an easy situation,” Peres said.
“We are very careful not to hit any civilian life and they are concentrated on hitting our civilian life.
“Hamas is shooting at our settlements, at our houses, at our kindergartens, at our schools. What would any other country do but to try to stop it and do so without hitting civilian life?
“They shoot at our children. We are trying to answer and shoot against the ones who fire against us.”
The 89-year-old said Israel was making a “supreme effort” to avoid civilian casualties but “unfortunately they use their homes, even their mosques to hide the arms, to make them headquarters of shooting.
“In spite of it, and until now I believe, almost no civilians were hit.
“We shall keep on with our principles. We are not being carried away by anger or misconception. The government is behaving as a responsible government that has to defend their citizens, young and old.”