Israel, Gaza violence defies truce 'deal'

Gaza City - Israeli jets bombed targets across Gaza early on Thursday, retaliating to Palestinian rocket attacks in spiralling violence that left a truce extension teetering on the brink of collapse.

The resumption of hostilities shattered nearly three days of calm over the skies of Gaza and southern Israel, raising fears that a new ceasefire announced in the Egyptian capital could quickly unravel.

More than 1 950 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side have been killed since 8 July, when Israel launched an offensive to destroy Hamas rockets and attack tunnels burrowing under the Jewish state.

After days of shuttle diplomacy, the agreement clinched by Egypt had appeared to secure the longest period of calm in the five-week conflict and allow more time for talks on the thorniest issues that separate the two sides, the Palestinians said.

Firestorm of violence

An official at the Palestinian interior ministry reported four air strikes over open ground about 30 minutes into the extension of a new truce, from midnight.

Israel said it was targeting "terror sites across the Gaza Strip" in response to rocket fire.

The military "will immediately respond to any threat to Israel," it added.

A spokesperson for the Israeli army told AFP that Palestinian militants launched eight rockets towards Israel late on Wednesday, six of which hit open areas and one of which was intercepted.

At least two of the rocket attacks were reported after midnight, the expiry of the previous truce and the continuation of the other.

Millions of people had banked on Egyptian mediators to avoid a resumption of the violence.

A previous three-day truce collapsed in a firestorm of violence on 7 August.

The new truce will last five days, senior Palestinian negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed said in Cairo, adding that more time was needed to discuss "some" remaining disputes with Israel over a long-term truce.

An official told AFP that Israel was willing to extend the lull by three days, but also sounded a note of caution, saying that the Palestinians were digging their heels in.

"The way things stand now, it doesn't look like it's going to stay quiet," he said before an Egyptian official announced an agreement.

Hamas, Gaza's Islamist de facto rulers, denied its militants were responsible for firing any rockets on Wednesday. Israel said the attacks caused no damage or casualties.

Italian journalist, five Palestinians dead

Earlier, an ordnance blast killed five Palestinians and an Italian journalist in the northern town of Beit Lahiya as a Palestinian bomb disposal squad was trying to disable an Israeli missile.

The Associated Press confirmed that one of its cameramen and a freelance Palestinian translator were killed, identifying them as Simone Camilli, aged 35, from Italy, and Ali Shehda Abu Afash, aged 36.

Besides his work as a translator, Abu Afash also worked part-time as an administrative assistant in AFP's Gaza bureau. He leaves behind a wife and two girls, aged seven and two.

Camilli, who is survived by a wife and three-year-old daughter, had worked for The Associated Press since 2005.

Both men were killed as they covered the story of experts dismantling unexploded ordnance.

One of AP's Palestinian photographers, Hatem Moussa, was also badly wounded along with another four people, medics said.

The Gaza interior ministry said its top bomb disposal expert in the north had been killed, naming him as Taysir Lahum.

There had been fears on both sides that hostilities could resume.

Dozens of tanks and armoured personnel carriers approached the border area with Gaza.

"We have already sacrificed 64 men and it is possible we may have to sacrifice more," Israel's chief of staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said at a military ceremony, his remarks broadcast on army radio.

Unblocking the blockade

In Cairo, the chief Palestinian negotiator said there was an agreement "on many points" as concerns the key Palestinian demand to end an eight-year Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The negotiators needed more time to settle "some" remaining disputes, he told reporters.

The joint Palestinian delegation, which includes Hamas and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, will leave Cairo on Thursday to consult with their leaderships, he said.

Mediators proposed that talks on a seaport and airport in Gaza be delayed until a month after a permanent ceasefire takes effect, according to an Egyptian proposal contained in documents seen by AFP.

Negotiations about handing over the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers in exchange for the release of prisoners in Israeli jails would also be postponed, according to the document.

A buffer zone along Gaza's border with Israel would be gradually reduced and guarded by Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas's security teams.

Israel has said it will facilitate Gaza's reconstruction only if the enclave is fully disarmed, a demand rejected by the Palestinians.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon meanwhile briefed US counterpart Chuck Hagel on the ceasefire.

Hagel reiterated his support for Egypt's mediation efforts and underscored the importance of achieving a sustainable outcome that ensures Israel's security and addresses Gaza's humanitarian crisis, said Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the UN Human Rights Council over a planned probe over alleged Israeli war crimes, charging that it granted "legitimacy to murderous terror organisations like Hamas" by overlooking "massacres" committed elsewhere in the Middle East.

David Van Schalkwyk 2014/08/14 11:31:09 AM
"retaliating to Palestinian rocket attacks" all you Pro Hamas nut jobs that are now going to post anti Israel comments...
Nathan Stern 2014/08/14 01:42:38 PM
Katherine, its sad that you support Hamas and it's human rights policies such as, educating children to hate and kill all Jews, wanting to have the number of fatalities to be high to gain world sympathy and thus shooting rockets from schools, hospitals. Also creating tunnels specifically to kidnap Israeli Woman and children, using money for infrastructure on tunnels while Israel supplies Gaza with water and electricity? You might as well support ISIS who are beheading Christians in Iraq. The only difference is that Israel is defending itself and being criticized for it, as opposed to no one defending the Christians in Iraq.
Spellcheck_You're welcome 2014/08/14 05:31:22 PM
The blood and "wounded" in the photo do not look fake at all.
Ismail Vally 2014/08/15 01:50:43 PM
Whats going on all over the world is by gods will whatever it may be.our job is not to judge nor critisize.some of us will see the truth and some of us will be blinded.However brothers let us strengthen our beliefs and use prayer as our weapon.The day our mosques are full of believers at the time of fajr as at the time of jumuah standing united as on ummah..they will shake with fear and they know it!!! as simple as that.
Prangsuda Oudomsuk 2014/08/15 03:40:35 PM
The head of the State Department’s Division of Near Eastern Affairs, Gordon P. Merriam, warned against the partition plan on moral grounds: “U.S. support for partition of Palestine as a solution to that problem can be justified only on the basis of Arab and Jewish consent. Otherwise we should violate the principle of self-determination which has been written into the Atlantic Charter, the declaration of the United Nations, and the United Nations Charter–a principle that is deeply embedded in our foreign policy. Even a United Nations determination in favor of partition would be, in the absence of such consent, a stultification and violation of UN’s own charter.” Merriam added that without consent, “bloodshed and chaos” would follow, a tragically accurate prediction. An internal State Department memorandum accurately predicted how Israel would be born through armed aggression masked as defense: “...the Jews will be the actual aggressors against the Arabs. However, the Jews will claim that they are merely defending the boundaries of a state which were traced by the UN...In the event of such Arab outside aid the Jews will come running to the Security Council with the claim that their state is the object of armed aggression and will use every means to obscure the fact that it is their own armed aggression against the Arabs inside which is the cause of Arab counter-attack.”
Taro Van Rooyen 2014/08/15 05:04:17 PM
The world should stand together and use all of its military to root out the hole of Islam's Palestinian jihads Muslims so they can be extinct from this world so the world can live in peace for ever