Deadly Israel-Gaza conflict resumes, talks in tatters

Deadly Israel-Gaza conflict resumes, talks in tatters

GAZA CITY - Agence France-Presse
Deadly Israel-Gaza conflict resumes, talks in tatters

Smoke rises over Gaza City after an Israeli strike, Friday, Aug. 8 as Israel and Gaza militants resumed cross-border attacks after a three-day truce expired. AP Photo / Lefteris Pitarakis

Deadly hostilities engulfed Gaza on Aug. 8 once again where a 10-year-old boy was killed and Israeli warplanes struck targets in retaliation for dozens of Palestinian cross-border rockets attacks.

Exactly one month after Israel launched a punishing air campaign to destroy Hamas rockets, the Jewish state said talks in Cairo on extending a 72-hour truce were over as rockets wounded two people in Israel.

"Israel will not negotiate under fire," an official said on condition of anonymity. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the military to retaliate "forcefully to the Hamas breach of the ceasefire," as the violence ended long-term ceasefire negotiations in Cairo.

Before Hamas breached the truce, Israel had told Egypt it was willing to extend the ceasefire by another 72 hours, the Israeli official said.

The violence ended a three-day lull in four weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas that has killed at least 1,894 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side, almost all soldiers.

A 10-year-old boy was the latest fatality, killed on Aug. 8 with six people wounded in an Israeli air strike in northern Gaza City, Palestinian emergency services said. The United Nations says at least 1,354 of the Palestinians killed in the fighting since July 8 were civilians, including 447 children.

In Gaza, some families who had returned home trickled back to shelter at UN-run schools after Palestinian militants fired two rockets into Israel, breaching the temporary ceasefire before it formally expired at 0500 GMT.

'All scared'

In al-Tuffah in Gaza City, hundreds of refugees were seen living in classrooms, laundry hanging off balconies and a scrum of people queing for UN food handouts.

"Of course we're all scared, I'm scared, my children are scared, my wife is scared," Abdullah Abdullah, 33, told AFP at the school. In Israel, the army banned all gatherings larger than 500 people within 40 kilometres of Gaza and said kindergarten and summer camps could only operate if there was a bomb shelter in the immediate vicinity.

"This is very frustrating, we thought it would be over," said Dov Hartuv, who has lived for decades in Nahal Oz kibbutz just east of the border with Gaza.

"This might just be for 12 or 24 hours before they return to the negotiating table. Meanwhile it ruined all our plans and frustrated all of us, especially the families with young children," he told AFP.

In Gaza, the interior ministry and witnesses said Israeli warplanes struck targets in Jabaliya in the north, Gaza City and in the centre of the Palestinian enclave. Witnesses also reported artillery shelling east and north of Gaza City.

The Israeli army said Palestinian militants fired 33 rockets at the Jewish state, wounding a civilian and a soldier in the south, and that "terror sites" had been targeted in Gaza.

Israel launched an air campaign on July 8, followed by a ground offensive designed to destroy Hamas's arsenal of rockets and its network of tunnels stretching underground to Israel.

"We will continue to strike Hamas, its infrastructure, its operatives and restore security for the State of Israel," said army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner.

Hamas, which has not claimed responsibility for any of the latest rocket attacks, said Aug. 8 that negotiations were continuing in Cairo. Its armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, had warned fighting would resume if their demands were not met, first and foremost to open a sea port to the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

The Israeli delegation in Cairo returned to Israel on Aug. 8 morning. Another Palestinian official said Hamas and rival armed group Islamic Jihad had first agreed to a ceasefire, but backtracked when there was an alteration in the wording of the agreement regarding Israel's blockade on Gaza.

A senior Palestinian official accused Israel of procrastinating, warning it could lead to a resumption of fighting. Hamas and Palestine Liberation Organisation officials laid out a number of demands, starting with the lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade on Gaza. They also want the release of about 125 key prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Despite the withdrawal of all its troops from Gaza by the time the truce began on Tuesday, Israel has retained forces along the border who are ready to respond to any resumption of fighting.

A British, French and German proposal to rebuild Gaza aims to strengthen the hand of Abbas and his Palestinian Authority while clamping down on Gaza militants to ensure Israel's security.