Israel strikes Gaza after rocket fire resumes
Ceasefire will not be extended, according to Hamas officials who accuse Israel of rejecting their demands
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, Reuters reported.
Egyptian officials called the warring parties to resume the ceasefire, saying only a few points remained to be agreed.
An Israeli government official said Israel would not negotiate with Palestinians as rocket attacks continue.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday the United States is “very concerned” about today's developments, urging the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume talks and do what they can to protect civilians after news of the failed extension of the ceasefire.
“We condemn the renewed rocket fire and we are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides of that conflict,” he said.
Additionally, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters that a U.S. team, including acting Middle East peace envoy Frank Lowenstein were currently in Cairo.
“Our hope is that the parties will agree to an extension of the ceasefire in the coming hours,” she told reporters.
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon also condemned the rocket attacks on Israel and called for a return to a ceasefire in Gaza.
Ban “firmly” called on the Palestinians and Israelis “not to resort to further military action” as it would worsen the “already appalling” humanitarian situation in Gaza.
The Palestinian delegation negotiating a ceasefire with Israel in Cairo said it was determined to reach a deal, a senior Palestinian official told Agence-France Presse on Friday.
“We told the Egyptians (mediators) we are sitting here to achieve a final agreement that restores the rights” of Palestinians, delegation head Azzam al-Ahmed told reporters.
The Egyptian foreign ministry said progress had been made before a 72-hour truce ended Friday morning with the resumption of hostilities.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group in the Gaza strip had rejected a call for another 72-hour truce, accusing Israel of stalling.
"There had been an agreement on the vast majority of matters that are important to the Palestinian people, but some limited points remained undecided, a matter that should have led to an acceptance to renew the ceasefire," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The statement called for “an immediate return to a ceasefire.”
Meanwhile, Israeli troops killed one Palestinian teen and wounded dozens others during clashes with protestors against Israel's incursion into Gaza, Palestinian medical officials told AFP.
One man was seriously injured by a live shot to the chest, while another 29 received lesser wounds from a mixture of live fire and rubber bullets.
As Israel pulled out of talks in Cairo on extending a Gaza truce with Hamas after a 72-hour ceasefire ended and violence resumed on Friday, Egypt urged for a new truce.
“Israel will not negotiate under fire,” one Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Agence France-Presse, noting Israel had informed Egypt of its willingness to extend the truce by another three days before “Hamas breached the ceasefire.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israeli military to retaliate after rocket attacks by Gaza Palestinian militants followed the end of a three-day truce on Friday, an official said.
“The Israeli prime minister and defense minister have ordered the IDF (Israel defense forces) to retaliate forcefully to the Hamas breach of the ceasefire,” an official said in a statement.
The army confirmed it had “targeted terror sites across the Gaza Strip,” with a spokeswoman telling Agence France-Presse that no Israeli soldiers had entered the Palestinian territory.
A huge explosion and a plume of smoke were seen in Gaza City on Friday, apparently from an Israeli air strike, a Reuters witness said.
One Israeli air strike killed a 10-year-old child in Gaza City, the first death reported since a 72-hour truce expired at 0500 GMT, Palestinian medics said.
A woman was wounded in the same attack, emergency services said.
Earlier, two senior Hamas officials told AFP that the Palestinian movement will not extend the ceasefire which expired at 0500 GMT Friday, accusing Israel of rejecting their demands for a truce.
A leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller faction in Gaza that was also present in Cairo-mediated truce talks, confirmed the factions had decided not to extend the ceasefire.
Another senior Hamas official told The Associated Press that the group decided not to extend the ceasefire.
Meanwhile, Hamas also denied that it launched rockets on southern Israel amid Israeli military accusations that the Palestinian group has fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip on Friday hours before a 72-hour ceasefire was due to expire.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the projectiles landed in open areas close to the Gaza border.
No one claimed responsibility for the fire from Gaza. There are a number of militant groups in the crowded territory that operate outside the control of Hamas with rockets of their own.
Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect talks in Cairo on new, border arrangements for the blockaded coastal territory. Israel has said it is willing to consider easing border restrictions, but demands that Hamas disarm. The talks began during a three-day truce that is to end at 0800 (0500 GMT) Friday.
The Hamas senior official told The Associated Press that the group’s representatives were told by Egyptian mediators that Israel had rejected Hamas’ conditions for an extension - an agreement in principle to open Gaza’s borders and allow for a rebuilding of the strip. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was en route to informing Egyptian officials of the decision.
A collapse of the truce could unleash a new round of violence after a month of fighting that has claimed nearly 1,900 Palestinian lives, with 67 deaths on the Israeli side.
On Thursday, a former spokesman for Hamas was found dead Thursday in a neighborhood of the city that was heavily bombed by Israel, the movement said.
Ayman Taha was killed when Israeli forces “targeted him in the apartment where he was with several others in Gaza City” in the Shejaiya neighborhood, the group said in a statement.
Their area was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting and bombardment during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
He was severely wounded and died later, the statement said.
In a related story, Hamas said on Thursday it had executed several Palestinians on suspicion of helping Israeli forces during the month-long Gaza war.
“The spies were executed after they were caught red-handedly informing on the whereabouts of the resistance (or) disrupting the work of resistance men and defusing ambushes prepared against the enemy,” al-Majd, a pro-Hamas website, quoted an unnamed member of the Islamist group’s security services as saying.
It did not elaborate on the number of people executed.
(With AFP, Reuters and Associated Press)
Ex-Hamas spokesman found dead in shelled Gaza neighborhoodAyman Taha was killed in the Shejaiya neighbourhood Middle East
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