Israelis enter a bomb shelter as a siren sounds warning of
incoming rockets in Ashkelon. Photo by Reuters
Israel resumed air strikes in the Gaza Strip after
agreeing to an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire deal that failed to
get Hamas militants to halt rocket attacks.
The week-old conflict seemed to be at a turning point, with
Hamas defying Arab and Western calls to cease fire and Israel
threatening to step up an offensive that could include an
invasion of the densely populated enclave of 1.8 million.
Under a blueprint announced by Egypt - Gaza's neighbour whose
military-backed government has been at odds with Islamist
Hamas - a mutual "de-escalation" was to have begun at 9am
(local time), with hostilities ceasing within 12 hours.
Hamas' armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades,
rejected the ceasefire deal, a proposal that addressed in
only general terms some of its key demands, and said its
battle with Israel would "increase in ferocity and
But Moussa Abu Marzouk, a Hamas political official who was in
Cairo, said the movement, which is seeking a deal that would
ease the Egyptian and Israeli border restrictions throttling
Gaza's economy, had made no final decision on Cairo's
The Israeli military said that since the ceasefire deal was
to have gone into effect, Hamas had fired 123 rockets at
Israel, one killing a civilian - the first Israeli fatality
in the fighting.
A Palestinian civilian was killed in an air strike in Khan
Younis, raising the death toll in the Gaza Strip in eight
days of fighting to 188, including at least 150 civilians,
among them 31 children, according to Gaza medical officials.
Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted 20 of the
Hamas projectiles, including two over the Tel Aviv area, and
the rest caused no damage or casualties.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack
against Israel's commercial capital, which has been targeted
frequently since the war began, as well as for the rocket
that killed the Israeli man along the border.
Six hours after implementation of the truce was to have
begun, and citing the persistent salvoes, Israel resumed
attacks in Gaza. The military said it targeted at least 20 of
Hamas's hidden rocket launchers, tunnels and weapons storage
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks
late on Tuesday that Israel had no choice but to "expand and
intensify" its campaign on Hamas, though he did not
specifically mention the possibility of a ground incursion.
The Iron Dome has shot down most projectiles liable to hit
Israeli towns and cities, but the rocket salvoes have made a
rush to shelters a daily routine for hundreds of thousands of
people across the country.
The surge in hostilities over the past week was prompted by
the murder last month of three Jewish seminary students in
the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the revenge killing on
July 2 of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem. Israel said on
Monday three Jews in police custody had confessed to killing
KERRY CONDEMNS "BRAZEN" HAMAS ROCKET FIRE
Sirens sounded on Tuesday in areas up to 130km north of the
Speaking in Vienna, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
supported Israel: "I cannot condemn strongly enough the
actions of Hamas in so brazenly firing rockets, in multiple
numbers, in the face of a goodwill effort (to secure) a
Netanyahu, whose security cabinet voted 6-2 earlier on
Tuesday to accept the truce, had cautioned that Israel would
respond strongly if rockets continued to fly.
He said he expected the "full support from the responsible
members of the international community" for any
intensification of Israeli attacks in response to Hamas
spurning a truce.
Earlier, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said that
demands the movement has made must be met before it lays down
Other Palestinian militant groups - Islamic Jihad, the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the
Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine - also said
they had not yet agreed to the Egyptian offer.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who reached an agreement
with Hamas in April that led to the formation of a unity
government last month, called for acceptance of the proposal,
the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.
Abbas was due in Cairo on Wednesday for talks with President
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Palestinian leader's spokesman
The Arab League, at a meeting on Monday, also welcomed the
ISRAELI GROUND ASSAULT POSSIBLE
Israel had mobilised tens of thousands of troops for a
threatened Gaza invasion if the rocket volleys persisted.
"We still have the possibility of going in, under cabinet
authority, and putting an end to (the rockets)," Amos Gilad,
a senior Israeli defence official, said.
Under the proposal announced by Egypt's Foreign Ministry,
high-level delegations from Israel and the Palestinian
factions would hold separate talks in Cairo within 48 hours
to consolidate the ceasefire with "confidence-building
Hamas leaders have said any deal must include an end to
Israel's blockade of Gaza and a recommitment to a truce
reached in an eight-day war there in 2012.
Hamas also wants Egypt to ease curbs at its Rafah crossing
with Gaza imposed after the military ousted President Mohamed
Mursi, an Islamist, a year ago.
The Egyptian proposal made no mention of Rafah or when
restrictions might be eased.
Hamas has faced a cash crisis and Gaza's economic hardship
has deepened as a result of Egypt's destruction of
cross-border smuggling tunnels. Egyptian authorities also
accuse Hamas of assisting anti-government Islamist militants
in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, an allegation the Palestinian
Hamas has said it also wants the release of hundreds of its
activists arrested in the West Bank while Israel searched for
the three missing teenagers.
The proposed truce also made no mention of the detainees.
Adnan Abu Amer, a political analyst in Gaza, said it appeared
that Egypt had deliberately ensured that their initiative
would fall short of Hamas's demands, in an attempt bid to
make the movement look rejectionist.
"Egypt stood by Israel's side, as if it was trying to punish
Hamas and give Israel some time to pursue its military
campaign," he said.