Israel, Palestinians trade fire; 2 killed in Gaza
Gaza City - An Israeli airstrike on a Gaza farm killed two Palestinians on Friday, a Gaza health official said, as fighting continued for a third day after the collapse of Egyptian-led cease-fire talks.
The renewed exchanges have dashed hopes for a lasting truce after a month long war that has already killed over 2 000 people.
By midmorning Friday, Israel had launched about 20 airstrikes at Gaza, while Gaza militants fired two rockets at Israel, the Israeli military said.
Earlier this week, Hamas rejected an Egyptian truce proposal under which Israel would gradually ease its blockade of Gaza, without giving specific commitments.
Hamas demands a lifting of the border closure, imposed by Israel and Egypt after the militant group's takeover of the coastal strip in 2007.
A quick resumption of indirect talks between Israel and Hamas in Cairo seems unlikely, particularly after Israel killed three top Hamas military leaders in an airstrike Thursday.
Responding to the killing of the three, senior Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said late Thursday that his group would not budge from its demands.
"We will not accept anything less than an end to the [Israeli] aggression and an end to the blockade," Haniyeh said in a statement posted by the Hamas-affiliated Al Rai news service. "Anyone involved in cease-fire efforts must understand that our people will not accept anything less than this."
Since Israel-Hamas fighting erupted on 8 July, at least 2 086 Palestinians were killed, according to Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra.
Nearly a quarter of the dead — 469— are children, according to the top Unicef field officer in Gaza, Pernilla Ironside. Of the more than 10 400 Palestinians wounded, nearly a third are children, according to Unicef figures, while some 100 000 Gazans have been left homeless.
On the Israeli side, 67 people have been killed in the past six weeks, including 64 soldiers, two civilians and a Thai worker.
One of Friday's airstrikes hit a livestock farm where two workers were killed, al-Kidra said. Three Palestinains were wounded in that strike.
The Israeli military said its strikes targeted concealed rocket launchers and weapons sites.
Israel said the three Hamas senior figures killed on Thursday had played a key role in expanding the militants' military capabilities in recent years, including digging attack tunnels leading to Israel, training fighters and smuggling weapons to Gaza.
One of the trio also played a role in the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in 2006. After being held captive in Gaza for more than five years, Schalit was exchanged for more than 1 000 Palestinian prisoners in 2011.
Israel says the Gaza blockade is needed to prevent Hamas and other militant groups from getting weapons. The restrictions prevent most Gazans from travelling outside the crowded coastal strip and bar most exports.