Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday vowed harsh retribution against Hamas, after a mortar round fired from the Palestinian territory killed an Israeli child.
“Hamas will pay a heavy price for this attack,” Netanyahu's spokesman Ofir Gendelman cited the prime minster as saying on his Twitter account, adding that the Israeli army and Shin Bet internal security service would "intensify ops against Hamas until the goal of #ProtectiveEdge is achieved".
The 4-year-old Israeli boy is the first Israeli child killed in the conflict between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian factions since the beginning of Israel’s operation “Protective Edge” against the Palestinian enclave on July 8.
More than 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, most of them civilians.
Hostilities between the rivals flared once more after a breakdown in Egypt-sponsored truce talks earlier this week.
Hamas Friday said it executed 18 people suspected of being informants for Israel, a day after losing three losing three of its top military commanders in an Israeli airstrike.
The victims, their heads covered and hands tied, were shot dead by masked gunmen dressed in black in front of a crowd of worshippers outside a mosque after prayers, witnesses and al-Majd, a pro-Hamas website, said.
Earlier, a statement on the Hamas-run website al-Rai said 11 were killed by a firing squad and warned that “the same punishment will be imposed soon on others.”
“The current circumstances forced us to take such decisions,” the statement read Friday suggesting a link between the killing of the alleged informers and Israel’s targeting of top Hamas leaders.
Infographic: Three Hamas commanders slain in Israeli strike
Hasty legal process
The 11 had been sentenced by Gaza courts, a Gaza security official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the suspected informants were killed in the Gaza City police headquarters.
Al-Rai, however, said they were killed after the completion of “legal procedures,” suggesting a hastily arranged hearing.
This marks the third time since the beginning of the Gaza war six weeks ago that Hamas announced the killing of alleged collaborators.
In pinpointing the whereabouts of the Hamas commanders, Israel likely relied to some extent on local informers.
By using blackmail or the promise of exit permits, Israel has maintained a network of informers despite its 2005 withdrawal from Gaza.
Strikes kill four Palestinians
Israeli air strikes killed four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Friday as fighting continued for a third day after the collapse of Egyptian-led ceasefire talks.
Health official Ashraf al-Kidra said two men working at a livestock farm were killed in the air strike on Deir al-Balah while a strike in Nusseirat hit a house, killing two men aged 24 and 22.
The identities of those killed in Deir al-Balah were not immediately clear.
Israel had been raiding Gaza daily since a recent truce collapsed last Tuesday. The Israeli Army said it carried out 20 air strikes which targeted rocket launchers and weapon sites early Friday.
According to the Israeli army, Gaza fighters launched two rockets targeting Israel.
U.S., European efforts
Meanwhile, the United States, Britain, France and Germany are discussing a possible Security Council resolution calling for a sustainable ceasefire and an international monitoring mission to ensure its implementation, U.N. diplomats said Thursday.
Diplomats said the U.S., Israel’s main ally, had joined the European effort to produce a resolution that would call for a ceasefire and advance the goal of a durable peace.
“This is not a competition,” said an American diplomat in Washington. “We share with other Security Council members a concern over the return to hostilities following the breach of the Egyptian-brokered humanitarian ceasefire. And the council has called on all parties to prevent the situation from escalating and to resume negotiations.”
Another diplomat said both Israeli and Palestinian officials have privately suggested Security Council action would be helpful in persuading their constituents to accept measures to end the conflict, which has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side.
“The message that we are getting from both sides is that it would be helpful to prescribe some elements to enable them to sell it internally,” that diplomat said.
Diplomats said the resolution would include opening up Gaza’s borders and a return of the Palestinian Authority to the territory, now controlled by Hamas. It would also include security assurances for the Israelis, including ways to prevent Hamas from acquiring more arms and building more tunnels. The resolution would incorporate a European Union offer to take charge of Gaza’s border crossings.
The international monitoring and verification mission would likely be a joint U.N.-EU effort, according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private and sensitive.
The diplomat said the three European countries have shared the elements of the possible resolution with council members, including Jordan, which has circulated its own resolution calling for a cease-fire. But the officials emphasized the discussions are in the early stages and there is no timeframe for introducing it.
Council members are wary of undermining efforts to revive the Egyptian-led talks. One diplomat said some members are also warning about unforeseen consequences of the U.N.’s most powerful body jumping in with a binding resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If either side violates the resolution, it could lead to calls for the Security Council to impose punitive measures “and some sort of escalation that is not in our interest,” the diplomat said.
Jordan has circulated its own resolution calling for a ceasefire, condemning civilian casualties and an end to excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians.
Nearly a quarter of the dead, 469, are children, according to the top UNICEF field officer in Gaza, Pernilla Ironside.
Of the more than 10,400 Palestinians wounded, nearly a third are children, according to UNICEF figures, while some 100,000 Gazans have been left homeless.
On the Israeli side, 68 people have been killed in the past six weeks, including 64 soldiers, two civilians and a Thai worker.
(With Reuters and Associated Press)SHOW MORE