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Middle East

Israeli strikes kill 4 in Gaza as EU pushes for truce

Smoke trails mark the path of Palestinian missiles fired from the northeast of Gaza City on August 21, 2014. (AFP/Roberto Schmidt)

GAZA CITY, Palestine: Israeli airstrikes killed four Palestinians in Gaza Friday as European governments sought U.N. action to end more than six weeks of bloodshed.

Fighting flared anew Tuesday as Egyptian-brokered truce efforts collapsed, with Israel insistent on its demand for security from rocket fire by Gaza militants, and Hamas defiant over its call for an end to eight years of Israeli blockade.

The death toll since July 8 now stands at at least 2,087 Palestinians dead, three-quarters of them civilians according to the United Nations, and 67 on the Israeli side, nearly all of them soldiers.

Two men aged 22 and 24 were killed in a strike on Nusseirat refugee camp early Friday, emergency services said.

Two more were killed in an air raid near neighboring Deir al-Balah.

The Israeli military said it struck around 20 targets overnight but did not give details.

Israeli media said the government was seeking U.S. diplomatic help to head off the European bid at the United Nations to end the violence, the deadliest since the 2005 end of the second Palestinian intifada or uprising.

Washington has wielded its veto powers at the U.N. Security Council repeatedly in the past on behalf of its Israeli ally.

But relations have been strained over the breakdown of U.S.-brokered peace efforts and concerns over the scale of the civilian death toll in Gaza.

The draft presented by Britain, France and Germany came after one submitted by Jordan on behalf of the Arab League had run into U.S. opposition.

The European text urged an immediate and sustainable cease-fire, and a lifting of the Israeli blockade.

It proposed a mechanism to monitor the cease-fire and supervise the movement of goods into Gaza to allay Israeli security concerns.

It also called for Gaza's return to the control of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas, seven years after his loyalists were driven out of the territory by Hamas.

The text provides for the lifting of economic and humanitarian restrictions on Gaza to allow for a massive reconstruction effort.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has pledged help to rebuild Gaza but warned that it would be "for the last time" after three wars in six years.

But as the diplomatic pressure for a cease-fire intensified, Israel showed no sign of ending its deadly campaign to halt rocket fire by Gaza militants.

The security cabinet authorized the call-up of up to 10,000 army reservists in a new troop rotation, Israeli media reported.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, regarded as one of the less hawkish members of the Security Cabinet, threatened further deadly attacks on Hamas commanders after three leading militants were killed in a predawn strike Thursday.

"Hamas leaders need to know that we shall not stop now," he said in remarks broadcast Friday by public radio.

"Each and every one of them - the political wing, the military wing, abroad or in Gaza itself - needs to know that he is a legitimate target for assassination as long as they continue ... to threaten Israeli citizens," Lapid said.

Thursday's strike came just 36 hours after Israel tried to assassinate Hamas military chief Mohammad Deif, who has topped its most wanted list for more than a decade.

That attack leveled a six-story building in Gaza City, killing two women and three children, among them Deif's wife, his infant son and3-year-old daughter.

Hamas said Deif himself was safe, although there was no evidence and the Israeli military refused to comment.

Hamas said Wednesday that is participation in truce efforts was over.

But its exiled leadership took part in a previously scheduled meeting with the Palestinian president Thursday that was joined by both sides' representatives in the Palestinian delegation to the abortive Cairo negotiations.

 

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Summary

Israeli airstrikes killed four Palestinians in Gaza Friday as European governments sought U.N. action to end more than six weeks of bloodshed.

Fighting flared anew Tuesday as Egyptian-brokered truce efforts collapsed, with Israel insistent on its demand for security from rocket fire by Gaza militants, and Hamas defiant over its call for an end to eight years of Israeli blockade.

The death toll since July 8 now stands at at least 2,087 Palestinians dead, three-quarters of them civilians according to the United Nations, and 67 on the Israeli side, nearly all of them soldiers.

The Israeli military said it struck around 20 targets overnight but did not give details.

Hamas said Deif himself was safe, although there was no evidence and the Israeli military refused to comment.


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