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Israel strikes Gaza after talks to extend truce collapse

A Palestinian man stands looking at destroyed buildings in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on August 8, 2014, as thousands of Palestinians are fleeing their homes in fear of Israeli attacks, after a 72-hour truce ended. AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMMED ABED

GAZA CITY / OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel launched airstrikes across the Gaza Strip Friday after Egyptian-mediated talks failed to extend a three-day truce.

A Palestinian official said Tel Aviv rejected key demands related to lifting the blockade on Gaza while Egypt called for a resumption of the cease-fire, arguing that only a few points remained to be agreed.

An Israeli government official stated that Israel would not negotiate with Palestinians while militants continued to unleash missiles. In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Israel had agreed to extend negotiations, adding that Hamas had rejected prolonging the cease-fire unless Israel met the group’s list of demands.

As warning sirens sounded in southern Israel, the military said Gaza-based Palestinians had fired at least 57 rockets 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.

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

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 that two people had been 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 told 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’s Israeli offensive.

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 cease-fire and exploit the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time.”

Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,880 Palestinians, most of them civilians.

Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have died in the fighting that began on July 8.

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

In the occupied West Bank, a 20-year-old Palestinian was shot dead during an anti-Israeli protest outside the settlement of Psagot, Palestinian medical officials said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 09, 2014, on page 1.

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Summary

Israel launched airstrikes across the Gaza Strip Friday after Egyptian-mediated talks failed to extend a three-day truce.

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Israel had agreed to extend negotiations, adding that Hamas had rejected prolonging the cease-fire unless Israel met the group's list of demands.

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

In Israel, police said that two people had been injured by mortar fire from Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel had rejected most Palestinian demands.


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