Secretary Of State Kerry Calls For Cease-Fire, Followed By Negotiations

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is considering a visit to Israel, despite that nation’s ongoing conflict with the militant group Hamas in Gaza.

With the war in full throttle, Cuomo has been invited to visit Israel by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the governor said he is considering it, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday.

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“This is an incredibly difficult time for Israel,” Cuomo said. “I want to be of help. I’ve been to Israel during times of terrorist attack before as a sign of solidarity. I have two brothers-in-law who are Jewish and I brought them with me last time, so it’s important to my family.”

Cuomo said a visit would highlight the special relationship between Israel and the state of New York, which is home to many Jewish people.

Last week, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew to Tel Aviv on the Israeli airline El Al during a Federal Aviation Administration ban on flights to Israel by U.S. carriers. The agency had imposed the restrictions out of concern for the risk of planes being hit by Hamas rockets. Flights resumed after a two-day hiatus.

Israel on Tuesday unleashed its heaviest bombardment during the 3-week-old war against Hamas, striking symbols of the militant group’s control in Gaza and firing tank shells that Palestinian officials said shut down the strip’s only power plant.

“This is a gradual increase in the pressure on this organization,” Israeli Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. “It has been over the last three weeks taking a new step every day.”

The heavy strikes came a day after Netanyahu on Monday warned of a “prolonged” campaign against Hamas.

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Israel said Hamas fired more than 50 rockets and mortar shells at the Jewish state Monday and Gaza militants infiltrated Israel through an underground tunnel, killing five Israeli soldiers. In Ashkelon, Israel family members were mourning the death of 23-year-old soldier Adi Briga, who was killed with three other soldiers in a Hamas mortar attack. His aunt is a teacher from Twin Rivers, N.J., Kramer reported.

“To hear his mom, to hear his sister … very hard, very hard,” Sonia Arusy said. “Almost every other family has this tragedy. We became like another one. It’s not really easy because we cry for everybody, but when it’s really yours it’s different.”

Fighting has claimed the lives of at least 53 Israeli soldiers and three civilians since July 8. More than 1,100 Palestinians have died, including at least 230 children.

Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Abded Rabbo, an aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called for a 24-hour humanitarian truce. But in the complicated politics of the region, Hamas — which is not part of the PLO — brushed aside Rabbo’s demand saying it had nothing to do with the positions of the factions at the moment, Kramer reported.

International calls for a cease-fire increased. Secretary of State John Kerry said he wants one, followed by negotiations.

“We are working very carefully, and I think thoughtfully, with our Israeli friends in order to be able to find a way to reduce the civilian loss of life, to prevent this from spiraling downwards into a place from which you know both sides have difficulty finding a way forward,” Kerry said.

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