Israel resumes military strikes after Hamas rejects ceasefire
Israel’s military resumed operations against Hamas in Gaza, six hours after accepting an Egyptian ceasefire proposal.
The resumption of operations in Gaza was announced at about 3 p.m (Israel time) on Tuesday, after more than 40 rockets were fired from Gaza at southern, central and northern Israel in the hours after Israel halted attacks in observance of the ceasefire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned earlier Tuesday that he would order the intensification of operation against Hamas if it continued to fire rockets at Israeli civilians.
“As you know, Israel has accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, a goal that was and remains putting an end to rocket fire from Gaza on our cities, providing the citizens of Israel with the peace and quiet to which they are entitled,” Netanyahu said at the start of a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
“I know that you know that no country would sit idly by while its civilian population is subjected to terrorist rocket fire. Israel is no exception. If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal, and the rocket fire from Gaza does not cease, and that appears to be the case now, we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation to protect our people.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Hamas for continuing its rocket fire, reiterating that the United States considers it a terrorist organization.
“I cannot condemn strongly enough the actions of Hamas in so brazenly firing rockets in multiple numbers in the face of a goodwill effort to offer a ceasefire, in which Egypt and Israel worked together, that the international community strongly supports,” Kerry said in Vienna on Tuesday morning.
“The Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire and negotiations provides an opportunity to end the violence and restore calm. We welcome the Israeli cabinet’s decision to accept it. We urge all other parties to accept the proposal,” he said
Kerry had been set to make a last minute trip to Egypt Tuesday to press for the ceasefire, but cancelled the trip after Israel accepted the proposal. His spokeswoman told reporters that Kerry has been in contact with the Egyptians, Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas since the beginning of Operation Defensive Edge began eight days ago.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians, also threatened Hamas if it did not stop firing rockets. “Israel is giving the Hamas an opportunity to also accept the Egyptian proposal, to stop firing and to stop a painful Israeli response that it will suffer if it continues to fire rockets. If Hamas doesn’t take up the proposal, Israel will continue to use force against it – and a lot of it,” Livni said, according to Ha’aretz.
Following a meeting Tuesday morning with Tony Blair, special envoy of the Quartet, the international grouping that mediates the peace talks, Israeli President Shimon Peres asserted that Israel would continue to defend itself against rocket fire from Gaza.
“Israel will continue to defend itself – it is our moral responsibility and our sovereign right. Terrorists aim to kill innocent civilians. Mothers and children. Jews and Arabs. However, the rockets did not achieve their aim. The strength of our army, our technological edge and the courage of our people allows Israel to stand strong,” he said.
“There are two camps. The camp of terror and the camp of peace. Not only here but across the world. This operation is an answer to the camp of terror. The IDF targeted hundreds of rocket launchers, training camps and tunnels. We all wish to lower the flames, we want an end to the fighting and we hope to see it soon. But there can be no compromise with terror. A ceasefire must be on these terms. No more rockets. No more terror.”
Tuesday afternoon, a civilian bringing food to Israeli soldiers near the Gaza border was the first Israeli killed by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.
The 37-year-old man was pronounced dead upon arrival at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. He had received emergency treatment in the field. He was visiting soldiers at the Erez border crossing when he was hit by mortar fire.
Nearly 200 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed during the first eight days of the operation.
About 40 rockets were fired at Israel around 7 p.m., bringing the day’s total to nearly 100. Following the resumption of Israeli attacks on Gaza Tuesday, Israel’s Air Force attacked 30 targets across Gaza, including 20 underground launchers, tunnels, an ammunition depot, and the house of an Islamic Jihad official, Ha’aretz reported, citing the Israel Defense Forces.
Also Tuesday afternoon, rocket fire from Gaza hit a second power line that provides electricity to Gaza, lowering the strip’s power supply by 20 per cent. The Israel Electric Company said it will not repair the lines until it can be sure of its employees’ safety.