Israel-Hamas truce collapses in new violence

By Mohammed Daraghmeh, Associated Press

Published: Fri, Aug. 8, 2014, 12:00 a.m. MDT

 Palestinians attend Friday noon prayers in the shadow of a toppled minaret at a mosque that was hit by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, as Israel and Gaza militants resumed cross-border attacks after a three-day truce expired and Egyptian-brokered talks on a new border deal for blockaded Gaza hit a deadlock.

Palestinians attend Friday noon prayers in the shadow of a toppled minaret at a mosque that was hit by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, as Israel and Gaza militants resumed cross-border attacks after a three-day truce expired and Egyptian-brokered talks on a new border deal for blockaded Gaza hit a deadlock.

(Khalil Hamra, Associated Press)

JERUSALEM — A three-day-old truce collapsed Friday in a new round of violence after Gaza militants resumed rocket attacks on Israel, drawing a wave of retaliatory airstrikes that killed at least five Palestinians, including three children.

The eruption of fighting shattered a brief calm in the monthlong war and dealt a blow to Egyptian-led efforts to secure a long-term cease-fire between the bitter enemies.

A delegation of Palestinian negotiators remained in Cairo in hopes of salvaging the talks. But participants said the negotiations were not going well, and Israel said it would not negotiate under fire. The Palestinian delegation met again late Friday with Egyptian mediators.

Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Palestinian delegation, said the delegation would stay in Egypt until it reaches an agreement that "ensures" the rights of the Palestinian people. "We told Egyptians we are staying," he told reporters.

The indirect talks are meant to bring an end to the deadliest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007. In four weeks of violence, more than 1,900 Gazans have been killed, roughly three-quarters of them civilians, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials. Sixty-seven people were killed on the Israeli side, including three civilians.

The Palestinians are seeking an end to an Israel-Egyptian blockade imposed on Gaza after the Hamas takeover.

The blockade, which Israel says is needed to prevent arms smuggling, has restricted movement in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people and brought Gaza's economy to a standstill. Israel says any long-term agreement must include guarantees that Hamas, an armed group sworn to Israel's destruction, will give up its weapons.

In Cairo, Palestinian participants in the talks were pessimistic about the chances of a deal. They said Israel was opposing every Palestinian proposal for lifting the blockade.

For instance, the Palestinians are seeking greater movement of goods through Israeli-controlled cargo crossings, while Israel wants restrictions on "dual-use" items that could potentially be used for military purposes, they said.

Israel also was resisting demands to allow movement between Gaza and the West Bank — Palestinian territories that are located on opposite sides of Israel, they said.

"Israel in these talks wants to repackage the same old blockade. Our demands are ending the blockade and having free access for people and goods. This is what ending the blockade means. But Israel is not accepting that," said Bassam Salhi, a Palestinian negotiator.

Negotiators said they expected to remain in Cairo for several days. But with violence resuming, it was unclear how much progress could be made.

The Israeli delegation to the Cairo talks left Egypt on Friday morning, and it was not clear if it would return. "There will not be negotiations under fire," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said.

In Cairo, Khaled al-Batch, a leader of Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group in Gaza, said that without a deal on easing the blockade, an informal truce might be the best that could be achieved.

"When there is no cease-fire, that does not mean there is escalation," he said. "Our priority now is to focus on stopping the Israeli aggression against our people and achieving our demands."

Egypt's Foreign Ministry urged restraint by both sides and called for a new cease-fire to resume negotiations. The ministry said progress had been made in the talks but did not explain.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "deep disappointment" at the failure to extend the cease-fire and urged the parties to swiftly find a way back to the negotiating table, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

The original, three-day truce expired at 8 a.m. Friday. But Gaza militants began firing rockets even before then. By late Friday, nearly 60 rockets had been fired. Two Israelis were hurt, and one of the rockets damaged a home.

Israel responded with a series of airstrikes. Palestinian officials said at least five people were killed in three separate strikes, two of them near mosques. Among the dead were three boys, a 10-year-old and two cousins, aged 12. At least five boys were wounded.

The deaths brought the overall Palestinian toll since July 8 to 1,902, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.

Hamas entered the Cairo talks from a position of military weakness, following a month of fighting in which Israel pounded Gaza with close to 5,000 strikes. Israel has said Hamas lost hundreds of fighters, two-thirds of its rocket arsenal and all of its tunnels under the border with Israel. Egypt has destroyed a network of smuggling tunnels that was once Hamas' economic and military lifeline.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said if Hamas wanted to end the blockade, it could have halted its attacks on Israel.

"Hamas doesn't really want the blockade on Gaza lifted," she told Channel 2 TV. "What Hamas wants is to gain legitimacy as a terror group that governs territory, and Israel will not accept that."

The war grew out of the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign in the West Bank, as Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel launched an air campaign on the coastal territory on July 8 and sent in ground troops nine days later to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.

Daraghmeh reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Daniel Estrin and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem, Edith Lederer at the United Nations and Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report.

1. timpClimber
Provo, UT,
Aug. 9, 2014

Hamas does not want peace. They want Israel dead and gone. Read their own words in their Charter or school books. Until they recognize Israel's right to exist and stop manufacturing and importing weapons why would anyone trust them with even a bag of cement? All U.S. aid should stop until the Palestinians renounce their Charter.

2. ulvegaard
Medical Lake, Washington,
Aug. 9, 2014

I also find it interesting that Palestinians are calling for an end to the blockade - a blockade brought on by Hamas insisting on smuggling weapons and ammunition into the region. It would seem to me that then, if all things are equal, all Hamas has to do to end the blockade and get the truce they so desperately want, they just need to stop dealing in arms which will be used in violence against Israel.

It becomes obvious that the obvious will not work out well for Hamas and so they refuse the terms of negotiations. Our wonder-child, secretary of state, has no option but to then bully Israel into making all the concessions so that he can get a gold star next to his name for bringing peace to the Middle-East, since there is no negotiating with Hamas.

3. Johnnyoh!
, ,
Aug. 9, 2014

As long as the USA keeps funding Palestine they will continue to buy weapons.
Cut off the head and the snake dies.
We have enough problems here at home to spend money we do not borrow, instead we borrow and continue foreign aid, incredibly stupid.
"If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got"

4. Abdulameer
Chicago, IL,
Aug. 9, 2014

"But participants said the negotiations were not going well."
Do tell! What is there to negotiate about when Hamas is dedicated to the goal of murdering Jews and annihilating Israel, just like it says in their Charter? If they agreed to disarm, there would be peace and the blockade would be lifted. It is as simple as that. But, Hamas will never agree to disarm because that would violate their religion which commands them: "“Prepare against them whatever force you are able to muster, and strings of horses, striking fear into the enemy of God and your enemy, and others besides them.” [Koran 8.60]) Their god also commands them: "Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme. Koran 8:40"

The Hamas Charter says, among other nasty things:
"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it" (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory)."
"Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious."

What, then, is there to negotiate about?

5. Uncle_Fester
Niskayuna, NY,
Aug. 9, 2014

gee i wonder who sent rockets into Israel again?