JERUSALEM // Senior Israeli ministers decided overnight to hold off from launching a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip to give Egyptian-led truce efforts a chance to work, a senior Israeli official said today.
"A decision was taken that for the time being there is a temporary hold on the ground incursion to give diplomacy a chance to succeed," he told AFP following a late-night session of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's inner circle, the Forum of Nine.
"They discussed both the state of the diplomacy and the military operation," he said on condition of anonymity.
As an Egyptian ceasefire proposal appears to be emerging from indirect negotiations in Cairo between Israel and a Hamas team, a stream of top-level diplomats were expected to arrive in the region to throw their weight behind efforts to end the violence which today entered its seventh day.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief, is to meet Israeli President Shimon Peres this evening and US officials said US secretary of state Hillary Clinton would break away from an Asia visit to visit Israel, Egypt and the West Bank.
Mrs Clinton will meet Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem, then discuss the crisis with Egyptian and Palestinian leaders, after leaving President Barack Obama's trip to South East Asia, the official said.
Barack Obama, the US president, made the decision to send Mrs Clinton after speaking to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and Mr Netanyahu late last night, the deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.
"Secretary Clinton will emphasise the US interest in a peaceful outcome that protects and enhances Israel's security and regional security," Mr Rhodes said, though stopped short of calling Clinton's trip a mediating mission.