Israel strikes Gaza after militants resume rocket fire

GAZA/JERUSALEM Fri Aug 8, 2014 11:38pm BST

1 of 14. Smoke rises in the Gaza Strip after an Israeli strike August 8, 2014. The Israeli military responded with air strikes at 'terror sites' across the Gaza Strip on Friday after militants launched rockets from the enclave, an Israeli military spokesman said.

Credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel launched air strikes across the Gaza Strip on Friday in response to Palestinian rockets after Egyptian-mediated talks failed to extend a 72-hour truce in a month-old war.

Egypt later called for a resumption of the ceasefire, saying only a few points remained to be agreed. Palestinian factions said they would meet Egyptian mediators later in the day but there was no sign of any imminent deal.

An Israeli government official said Israel would not negotiate with Palestinians while militants continued to unleash missiles.

As warning sirens sounded in southern Israel, the military said "Gaza terrorists" had fired at least 57 rockets on Friday and the "Iron Dome" interceptor system had been used against some of them.

Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the salvoes from the Hamas-dominated enclave.

Accusing Hamas of breaking the ceasefire, Israel said several of the rockets had been launched about four hours before the truce was due to end at 8 a.m. (6 a.m. BST). Heavier barrages followed shortly after the ceasefire period expired.

By resuming the attacks, Gaza militants appeared to be trying to put pressure on Israel, making clear they were ready to fight on to end a blockade of the coastal territory that both Israel and neighbouring Egypt have imposed.

In the first casualties since hostilities resumed on Friday, Palestinian medical officials said a 10-year-old boy was killed in an Israeli strike near a mosque in Gaza City. An Islamic Jihad militant and three other Palestinians were killed in attacks from the air in the southern Gaza Strip.

In Israel, police said two people were injured by mortar fire from Gaza.

Israel's armed forces said they had responded to the cross-border attacks by targeting 51 "terror sites" across the Gaza Strip, including rocket launchers and military compounds and headquarters, and would continue to strike Hamas and its infrastructure and operatives.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, said on Channel 2 television that Gaza militants "have to get hit in return, and not in the same proportion, but to a greater degree".

Heavy civilian casualties and destruction during Israel's campaign against militants in packed residential areas of the Gaza Strip have raised international alarm over the past month, but efforts to prolong a ceasefire at talks in Cairo failed.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement he was deeply disappointed an extension of the ceasefire could not be agreed, and he condemned the renewed rocket fire on Israel.

"The Secretary-General firmly calls on the parties not to resort to further military action that can only exacerbate the already appalling humanitarian situation in Gaza," it said.

GO-BETWEENS

Israel had earlier said it was ready to agree to an extension as Egyptian go-betweens pursued negotiations with Israeli and Palestinian delegates.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel had rejected most Palestinian demands. "However, we did not close the door and will continue with the negotiations," he said.

His comments came in response to a statement from the Egyptian foreign ministry, which indirectly blamed the Palestinians for refusing to end the truce. Egypt said an agreement had been reached on the major issues of concern to the Palestinian people and only a few sticking points remained.

The Palestinians had wanted Israel to agree in principle to demands which include lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the release of prisoners and the opening of a sea port, but this had been rebuffed, Abu Zuhri said.

Israel has shown little interest in easing its naval blockade of Gaza and controls on overland traffic and airspace, suspecting Hamas could restock with weapons from abroad.

Livni said the issue of a sea port should be part of wider final-status peace negotiations with the Palestinians and that Hamas, in the current indirect talks mediated by Egypt, should not be rewarded for "using force against Israeli citizens."

In Cairo, the foreign ministry called on both sides "to return immediately to the ceasefire and exploit the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time".

In Gaza, some families who had returned to their homes in the northern town of Beit Hanoun during the ceasefire gathered their belongings and headed back to the United Nations shelters where they had sought refuge over the past few weeks.

Beit Hanoun resident Yamen Mahmoud, a 35-year-old father of four, said: "Today I am fleeing again. I am not against resistance but we need to know what to do. Is it war or peace?"

Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,880 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Hamas said on Thursday it had executed an unspecified number of Palestinians as Israeli spies.

Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have died in the fighting that began on July 8, after a surge in Palestinian rocket salvoes into Israel.

It expanded its air and naval bombardment of the Gaza Strip into a ground offensive on July 17, and pulled its infantry and armour out of the enclave on Tuesday after saying it had destroyed more than 30 infiltration tunnels dug by militants.

Hamas's refusal to extend the ceasefire could further alienate Egypt, whose government has been hostile to the group and which ultimately controls Gaza's main gateway to the world, the Rafah border crossing.

A source at Cairo airport said the Israeli delegation left shortly before the truce expired.

"Despite being in Cairo for a week to negotiate, we have not heard Israel’s view on this demand or that demand, we’ve only heard it through the media. I say this is wrong," senior Fatah leader Azzam al-Ahmed, who heads the Palestinian negotiating team, told reporters in a hotel in the Egyptian capital.

"We present demands that have to do with stopping the war. We hope these demands are met. It would pave the way for a political process that would end the violence and the war and end the bloodshed," he said.

In the occupied West Bank on Friday, a 20-year-old Palestinian was shot dead during an anti-Israeli protest outside the settlement of Psagot, the Palestinian ambulance service said. A military spokeswoman said troops first used riot control methods but then opened fire, "confirming a hit", after stone-throwing protesters reached the settlement's fence.

(Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin and Maggie Fick in Cairo, Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Andrew Roche)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
tmhitchins wrote:
Hamas showing their true colours by resuming rocket attacks on Israel whilst continuing to hide behind the human shield of Palestinian children and women (and men!)
Hamas is the real enemy of the Gaza people, not Israel – when will the World wake up and see what is really happening??

Aug 08, 2014 9:28am BST  --  Report as abuse
senseoffairness wrote:
Always “Israel strikes”… how about “Hamas fires Grad rockets and breaks cease fire, for 7th time?” Also, why are Gazan’s not allowed into the fields for safety? Ask Hamas. Time the journalists were pulled out to spare these people being further killed as Hamas PR fodder.

Aug 08, 2014 11:37am BST  --  Report as abuse
Bellch wrote:
Why does the British government support this violent subjugation of an indigenous people?

Jewish groups in America and around the world demand an end to the blockade of Gaza and the continued illegal settlements in the West Bank. Who does Netanyahu represent other than the right-wing extremists of his own Likud Party and why does the British government support this violent subjugation of an indigenous people?

Letter to the Conference of Presidents
7/28/14

Stop the war on Gaza. End the Occupation. Freedom and dignity for all.

Dear Mr. Hoenlein,

We are here to demand that the Conference of Presidents join our call to stop the war on Gaza, end the occupation, and forge a path towards freedom and dignity for all in Israel and Palestine.

We are witnessing Israel’s third military operation in the Gaza strip in the past six years. We are alarmed and horrified by the death and destruction being committed in our name. This is a moment of truth for the Jewish community, a moment that demands action. Hillel, the Jewish sage of the 1st century, posed three questions that ring out across millennia. We come together to answer Hillel’s call.

If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?

We are Jews who live our Judaism in diverse ways. Our tradition compels us to a particular commitment, born of shared texts and a shared history, to the notion that every human being is valuable, and that all people deserve freedom and the opportunity to forge their own future. Our own history of oppression has taught us that our freedom cannot be achieved absent the freedom of our neighbors.

If we are only for ourselves, who are we?

As we were dehumanized by the oppression we faced, we are now dehumanized by the oppression we are inflicting. The military campaign of recent weeks offers a brutal reminder that Jewish liberation cannot and will not be complete so long as Palestinians are not also free.

So long as the Jewish people are caught in an endless cycle of violence, we are not safe. So long as the Jewish people occupy and rule over another by the force of military might, we are not secure. So long as families in Sderot and Tel Aviv run to bomb shelters, we are not free. So long as Israelis demonstrating for peace are attacked by mobs who claim to share our tradition but chant “death to Arabs, death to leftists” we have not achieved dignity. So long as young Israeli men and women are sent into battle every two years, to kill and be killed, we are not liberated.

We grieve for those who have died. Over 1034 Palestinians, and 42 Israelis, to date.

As we grieve, we are outraged. Outraged that so many speak of Palestinians as if their lives were worth less than our own, outraged at the justifications offered for the killing of so many. And outraged at those who have missed opportunities to stop this nightmare, and have resigned themselves, and their country, and their people, to perpetual occupation and violence.

If not now, when?

We reject the view that “we have no choice,” that this violence is necessary and inevitable. We act because too many in our community endorse this dangerous view in our name. In a moment that demands courage and foresight, too many abdicate responsibility. We come together to say — enough. Too many lives have been lost.

Today, we visit the office of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, which claims to represent us. It does not. We will recite the Mourner’s Kaddish for those who have died over the last weeks, we will consecrate their memory by reading their names, and we will call on the representatives of our community to join us as we demand an end the war on Gaza, an end to occupation, and freedom and dignity for all people of the region.

Join with us. Stop the war on Gaza. End the Occupation. Freedom and Dignity for all.

If not now, when?

FAIR USE NOTICE: This email may contain copyright material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law and within the legislation of other jurisdictions.

Aug 08, 2014 4:58pm BST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.