8 Aug 2014

Israel retaliates as rockets fired from Gaza

A 10-year-old Palestinian is reportedly killed after Israeli military responded with air strikes across the Gaza Strip on Friday after militants launched rockets from the enclave.

The boy, named locally as Ibrahim al-Dawowsa, was killed following an Israeli air strike near a mosque in Gaza City, Palestinian medical officials said. Six others were said to be injured.

Elsewhere in the city, worshippers gathered for Friday prayers outside a mosque that was recently destroyed by an airstrike.

In Israel, two people were hurt by rocket fire, police said. The army said a civilian was moderately injured and a soldier was slightly injured in the incident.

Cairo talks

It is not clear if the renewed fighting will derail the Cairo talks, which are aimed at reaching a sustainable truce, or if Egyptian mediators can find a way to prevent further escalation.

Hamas officials said that even though they refused to extend the three-day cease-fire, they were willing to continue negotiations. Both Israel and Hamas are under international pressure to reach a deal.

As part of such an arrangement, Israel wants to see Hamas disarmed or prevented from re-arming, while Hamas demands Gaza’s borders be opened. No progress was reported in all-night talks that ended before dawn Friday.

Rocket fire

As rocket-warning sirens sounded in southern Israel, the military said that since the truce expired Hamas had fired at least 18 rockets from Gaza and Israel’s “Iron Dome” interceptor system brought down two. No injuries or damage were reported. Gaza militants said they had fired a total of 10 rockets on Friday.

An Israeli security official said flight operations at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport, potentially within range of some rockets, were suspended for 45 minutes as the truce expired.

Despite warnings by Israel that it would respond forcefully to renewed rocket salvoes, there was no immediate Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip, where heavy civilian casualties and destruction during fighting against militants in packed residential areas have raised international alarm.

Israel had earlier said it was ready to agree to an extension as Egyptian go-betweens pursued talks with Israeli and Palestinian delegates in Cairo on ending the war that has devastated the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

A Hamas spokesman said Palestinian factions had not agreed to extend the truce, but would continue negotiations in Cairo.

Ceasefire ends

The Palestinians had wanted Israel to agree in principle to demands which include a lifting of a blockade on the Gaza Strip, the release of prisoners and the opening of a sea port.

The armed wing of Hamas released a statement late on Thursday warning Palestinians negotiators not to agree to an extension unless Israelis offered concessions.

In Gaza, some families who had returned to their homes in the northern town of Beit Hanoun during the ceasefire gathered up their belongings and headed back to the United Nations shelters where they had sought refuge over the past few weeks.
Some families in eastern Gaza, who had pitched tents near their wrecked houses, had also left the area.
Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,875 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 8 July, after a surge in Palestinian rocket salvoes into Israel.

The Israelis have shown little interest in easing their naval blockade of Gaza and controls on overland traffic and airspace, suspecting Hamas could restock on weapons from abroad.

Hamas 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.

The announcement that the truce would not be extended came a few minutes after it expired at 0500 GMT after lengthy talks that continued in Cairo through the night and into the morning.