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Hamas warns foreign airlines, truce talks over

2014-08-20 21:10

Gaza City - The armed wing of Hamas warned foreign airlines on Wednesday against flying into Tel Aviv, threatening to step up its six-week conflict with Israel and declaring truce talks in Cairo over.

The warning came after Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza again on Wednesday as furious mourners buried the wife and infant son of Hamas's top military commander, baying for revenge as nine days of calm exploded into bloodshed.

Mohammed Deif, who has topped Israel's most wanted list for more than a decade, escaped the assassination attempt, Hamas said.

Israel, which had carried out five previous attempts on Deif's life, said it would have no qualms about trying again, describing him as an "arch murderer".

So far, 20 Gazans have been killed since Palestinian militants launched a barrage of rockets on southern Israel on Tuesday and F16 fighter jets carried out retaliatory air strikes, Palestinian medics say.

"We are warning international airlines and press them to stop flying into Ben Gurion airport from 06:00 on Thursday," the spokesperson of the Hamas armed wing, Abu Obeida, said in a televised speech.

Israel to press forward with operation

Israel's prime minister says he will press forward with a military operation in the Gaza Strip until rocket fire out of the Palestinian territory is halted.

Benjamin Netanyahu made the comments in a nationwide address on Wednesday, a day after talks aimed at ending Israel's monthlong war against Hamas militants collapsed in failure.

Netayahu's tough words signal a protracted period of fighting could lie ahead.

Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets into Israel on Wednesday, while Israel carried out numerous airstrikes in Gaza. Palestinian officials say at least 20 Palestinians have been killed since the cease-fire talks collapsed.

Last month, many international airlines briefly suspended flights into Tel Aviv after a Hamas rocket struck close to the airport.

Dressed in military fatigues with his face wrapped in a red-and-white chequered headscarf, Abu Obeida said Hamas was abandoning efforts to negotiate a durable ceasefire with Israel at Egyptian-brokered talks.

"We are calling on the Palestinian delegation to withdraw immediately from Cairo and not to return," he said in a speech broadcast on Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV channel.

"There will be no return to talks after today and any move in this direction will never achieve any result," he added.

"The enemy lost a golden chance to reach a ceasefire with limited demands, for which it will pay after today."

The bloodshed pushed to 2 047 the number of Gazans killed in six weeks of the most violent confrontation between Israel and Hamas militants since the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising (2000-2005).

Another 67 people have died on the Israeli side.

The UN says around three-quarters of the victims in Gaza are civilians. Sixty-four of the Israeli dead were soldiers.

Egyptian mediators scrambled for weeks to push the warring sides to agree a decisive end to the bloodshed, but their latest attempts collapsed on Tuesday when the fighting resumed.

Deif heads Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which vowed to open the "gates of hell" on Israel in retaliation for the killings.

'Martyr in waiting'

The mourners, firing Kalashnikovs, buried Widad and her son Ali, who died alongside another woman and a teenager when a missile slammed into a six-storey building in Gaza City late on Tuesday.

It was the first deadly air strike since 10 August.

Grief-stricken, Widad's father Mustafa Harb Asfura carried his tiny grandson into the mosque then to the cemetery, his body wrapped in a white sheet exposing his white face with an injury to the eye.

"My daughter knew she would die a martyr when she decided to marry Mohammed Deif," he told AFP.

In Israel, Interior Minister Gideon Saar justified the attack, calling Deif a legitimate target.

"Mohammed Deif deserves to die just like [the late al-Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden. He is an arch murderer and as long as we have an opportunity we will try to kill him," Saar told army radio.

An army spokesperson said Gaza militants had fired 159 rockets, of which 119 hit southern and central Israel while 27 were shot down. There have been no reports of any casualties.

The army had hit 92 targets across Gaza, she added.

Truce talks torpedoed

The violence left Egyptian truce efforts in tatters, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately ordering his delegation back from Cairo.

Israel has repeatedly refused to negotiate under fire.

"The rocket fire which broke the ceasefire also destroyed the foundation on which the talks in Cairo were based," Netanyahu's spokesperson Mark Regev told AFP.

Most of the Palestinian negotiators, including delegation head Azzam al-Ahmed, also left Cairo.

The Egyptian foreign ministry expressed "profound regret at the breach of the ceasefire" and said it was working to bring both sides back to the negotiating table.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas meanwhile landed in Qatar ahead of talks on Thursday with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal that were scheduled before the ceasefire collapsed.

AFP
Read more on:    palestine israel gaza

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