National Security Brief: World Leaders Call For Cease-Fire In Gaza

— The Health Ministry in Gaza City told the New York Times that the death toll so far in the conflict between Hamas and Israel has risen to at least 91 (50 civilians), with 700 wounded, including 200 children (Some are reportedly being treated in Israeli hospitals). One Israeli airstrike destroyed a house belonging to a family, killing two children, two adults an injuring 42. Three Israelis have been killed so far and nearly 80 wounded from continued rocket attacks from militant Palestinians in Gaza.

— U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is flying to the Middle East to try to broker a cease-fire. “This must stop,” Ban said on Sunday, adding, “I am heading to the region to appeal personally for ending the violence and contribute to ongoing efforts to that end.”

— President Obama said Israel has the right to defend itself against rocket attacks. “If that can be accomplished without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that’s preferable,” he said. “It’s not just preferable for the people of Gaza. It’s also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they’re much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded.” The Obama administration is reportedly concerned that Israel’s war in Gaza will only serve to help Hamas.

— Egypt’s President has condemned Israel’s action in Gaza but the country’s Prime Minister said he is “close” to helping negotiate a cease-fire. “I think we are close, but the nature of this kind of negotiation, (means) it is very difficult to predict,” he said. Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan referred to Israel as “a terrorist state” on Monday. “Those who associate Islam with terrorism close their eyes in the face of mass killing of Muslims, turn their heads from the massacre of children in Gaza,” he said. “For this reason, I say that Israel is a terrorist state, and its acts are terrorist acts.”

— Israeli Defense Ministry spokesperson Josh Hartman said the country’s “Iron Dome” missile shield is a “game changer,” adding that the system has had a 90 percent success rate in intercepting rockets fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza. “Just imagine if those missiles had landed on the civilian population of Israel. The strategic picture would look very, very different,” Hartman says.

(Photo: Palestinians gathered around a crater caused by an Israeli strike. Credit: Wissam Nassar for The New York Times)