Hamas militants are not respecting a temporary lull in the fighting around Gaza which was agreed to by Israel on Friday for the duration of a brief visit by the Egyptian prime minister, an Israeli official said.
“Hamas does not respect the Egyptian PM’s visit to Gaza and violates the temporary cease fire that Israel agreed to during the visit,” said Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Egypt’s Prime Minister Hisham Kandil arrived in Gaza Strip Friday for a three-day visit and in an unprecedented display of solidarity with Hamas militants embroiled in a new escalation of conflict with Israel.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to an Egyptian request to cease all offensive operations in Gaza during the visit of the Egyptian prime minister there this morning, which is supposed to last for about three hours,” another senior Israeli official said.
“In the answer that has been forwarded to Egyptians, we’ve said that the Israel Defense Forces will cease fire on the condition that there won’t be fire from Gaza into Israel during that period,” the official added.
However, during Kandil’s visit a Palestinian security source reported of an Israeli strike hitting north Gaza, and two Palestinians were killed.
Al Arabiya correspondent also said that an Israeli airstrike has targeted home of Hamas military leader, Mohammed Abu Sahamala, despite the brief ceasefire.
Kandil vowed to intensify Cairo’s efforts to secure a truce and end Israel’s “aggression” in Gaza.
“Egypt will not hesitate to intensify its efforts and make sacrifices to stop this aggression and achieve a lasting truce,” he said at a press conference in Gaza City’s Shifa hospital after seeing some victims from the latest strike.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday called on Cairo to use its influence on Hamas to ease tensions in Gaza.
“The federal chancellor calls on the Egyptian government to use its influence on Hamas to push it towards a moderation of the violence,” Merkel’s deputy spokesman Georg Streiter told a regular government news conference.
Meanwhile, Israeli war planes carried out multiple new air strikes on Gaza Strip, including several hits on Gaza City on Friday morning, AFP reporters and Hamas security sources said.
“There have been 130 strikes overnight until now,” Hamas interior ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan said, citing “tens of strikes” across Gaza on Friday morning, as AFP correspondents in Gaza City reported multiple raids.
Shahwan said the strikes destroyed a building belonging to the interior ministry and used for administrative issues like passport renewals in the Gaza City neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa.
Al Arabiya correspondent reported that home of military Hamas leader, Mohammad al-Sinwar, was pounded. However, Sinwar and his family were not at home during the Israeli strike.
Eyewitnesses said training positions used by various Palestinian militant groups had also been hit in the latest round of strikes.
Hamas emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya said the toll now stood at 19 Palestinians, several of them children, with a further 235 people injured.
The Israeli army said it had carried out 466 air strikes since it launched “Operation Pillar of Defense” on Wednesday afternoon with the targeted killing of Hamas commander Ahmed Jaabari.
The army confirmed that “strikes are continuing,” adding that 11 Palestinian rockets had been fired from Gaza at Israel overnight.
A total of 280 rockets have been fired at the Jewish state from Gaza since Wednesday afternoon, the military added. Three Israelis were killed on Thursday.
The Israeli air defense system Iron Dome intercepted 131 of those, a military spokesperson said.
Israel and Hamas had largely observed an informal truce since Israel’s devastating incursion into Gaza four years ago, but rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes on militant operations didn’t halt entirely.
The latest flare-up exploded into major violence Wednesday when Israel assassinated Hamas’ military chief, following up with a punishing air assault meant to cripple the militants’ ability to terrorize Israel with rockets.
Netanyahu said the army was hitting Hamas hard with what he called surgical strikes, and warned of a “significant widening” of the Gaza operation. Israel will “continue to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people,” said Netanyahu, who is up for re-election in January.