Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, said there is “no humanitarian crisis” in the Gaza Strip, and again rejected a French proposal for a ceasefire to allow aid there.
Ms Livni was quoted by Israel’s foreign ministry as having said in a statement during a trip to Paris that “there is no humanitarian crisis in the [Gaza] Strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce”.
More than 400 Palestinians have been killed and 2 000 wounded over the past six days under an Israeli aerial bombardment.
1.5 million people live in the strip, where there are shortages of power, food and medical supplies due to a two-year blockade imposed by Israel on the area.
Livni was quoted as saying: “Israel has been supplying comprehensive humanitarian aid to the Strip… and has even been stepping this up by the day.”
A French proposal for a 48-hour ceasefire had previously been rejected by the Israeli cabinet on Wednesday.
On Thursday, while pressure built on Israel to agree a truce to allow aid into the besieged Gaza Strip, Ms Livni held talks with Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president, in the French capital.
Though at midnight on Wednesday, Mr Sarkozy ceased to hold the rotating presidency of the EU, he decided to go ahead with the meeting. Its aim was to negotiate some form of end to the Israeli assault on Gaza.
The Israeli cabinet rejected the French proposal for a ceasefire on Wednesday on the grounds it was seeking a “durable solution” and that a temporary truce would simply allow Hamas fighters to regroup and re-arm.
In the diplomatic push for peace in Gaza France has been a vocal. The country also chaired an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Paris on Tuesday in order to discuss solutions to the conflict.
The EU presidency has now been taken over by the Czech Republic. A spokesman for the country’s foreign office confirmed that it would be continuing the line of the French ceasefire proposal.
On Sunday, a Czech mission will begin a trip to the region, with visits scheduled to include Amman, Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Cairo.
According to Rula Amin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Beirut, a senior Hamas source had confirmed on Thursday that there had been a European proposal for a ceasefire, but that its terms were very vague and that Hamas was still looking into it.
According to Al Jazeera’s correspondent, at the top of calling for a halt to all attacks from both sides on civilian targets and the opening of crossings into Gaza, the ceasefire called for some kind of European presence in order to help organise the border crossings.
On Wednesday, Bernard Kouchner, France’s foreign minister, said that he and Mr Sarkozy would be in southern Lebanon next week, and “will see if it is possible to go to Israel”.