Israel orders Gaza truce team back from Cairo

Gaza City - Israel hauled its negotiators back from talks in Cairo and warplanes hit Gaza Tuesday after Palestinian rockets smashed into the south as the two sides were observing a 24-hour truce.

Nine days of relative quiet in the skies over Gaza came to an abrupt halt on Tuesday afternoon when three rockets struck southern Israel just hours before the truce was to expire at midnight local time (21:00 GMT on Monday).

Israel immediately ordered a military response, with warplanes striking targets across the battered Gaza Strip, although there were no immediate reports of casualties, Palestinian security sources and witnesses told AFP.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rockets fired at Beersheva, which is home to around 200 000 Israelis.

An Israeli official confirmed the negotiating team had been ordered back from Cairo where Egypt has been pushing for a decisive end to the Gaza bloodshed, which has killed more than 2 000 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side.

"The Cairo process was based on the premise of a total ceasefire," he told AFP.

"If Hamas fires rockets the Cairo process has no basis."

Israel has repeatedly said it would not negotiate under fire and on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned there would be "a very strong response" should there be any resumption of fire.

Hamas dismissed his remarks as having "no weight".

"Yet again, terrorists breach the ceasefire and renew fire at Israeli civilians from Hamas ruled Gaza Strip," said army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, confirming attacks on targets across the coastal enclave.

"We cease, they fire."

'Sabotaging the talks'

In Gaza, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri denied the Islamist movement had fired rockets over the border, accusing Israel of trying to sabotage the truce talks.

"We don't have any information about firing rockets from Gaza. The Israeli raids are intended to sabotage the negotiations in Cairo," he told AFP.

The talks in Cairo centre on an Egyptian proposal that meets some of the Palestinian demands, such as easing Israel's eight-year blockade on Gaza, but defer debate on other thorny issues until later.

The aim is to broker a long-term arrangement to halt more than a month of bloody fighting, although both sides have largely silenced their guns since 11 August thanks to a series of temporary truces.

Talks at the headquarters of Egyptian intelligence resumed around 08:00 GMT, a Palestinian official told AFP.

Although the back-to-back truce agreements have brought relief to millions on both sides of the border, the drawn-out waiting and the fear of a resumption of fighting was beginning to test people's patience.

"No one here has any hope," said Riyad Abul Sultan, a father of 10 with thick curly hair, smoking as he sat on a flimsy mattress at a UN school in Gaza.

"Maybe they'll finish the war for two hours, maybe Israel will start bombing again."

Deadlock over ports

The Palestinians say agreement over a long-term arrangement in Gaza has been delayed by Israeli foot-dragging over key issues such as a port and an airport.

"The negotiations failed on Monday evening because the Israelis refused to include a port or an airport in the agreement," a Palestinian source close to the talks told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The Egyptians then added a clause allowing for the postponement of talks on this issue in order to avoid Israel raising the issue of [disarming Gaza from] rockets and missiles," he said.

Israel has repeatedly demanded that Gaza be demilitarised although the subject is not overly mentioned in the Egyptian proposal as seen by AFP.

Islamic Jihad on Tuesday accused Israel of "intransigence" while Hamas's Abu Zuhri said the Jewish state was "playing for time" at the talks.

Hamas had repeatedly warned it would not extend the temporary ceasefire again, pressing for immediate gains that would allow it to claim concessions from Israel after the devastating four-week war, which began on 8 July.

Hamas shift

But a senior official within the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said the Islamist movement appeared to have changed its position following a meeting at the weekend between exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and senior Palestinian official Saeb Erakat.

"It looks like Hamas and Islamic Jihad will agree to the Egyptian paper," he told AFP.

The Egyptian proposal calls for both sides to immediately cease fire, and includes provisions relating to opening the borders to allow for free movement of people, goods and construction materials, as well as a clause on regulating the financial crisis within the enclave.

But crucially, it postpones discussions on the thorniest issues, such as a port and airport in Gaza, for another month "after calm and stability returns," along with talks over exchanging the remains of two Israeli soldiers for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Read more on: egypt palestine israel gaza
John Greystoke 2014/08/19 05:36:24 PM
It seems as if Hamas do not want a ceasefire? Neither does Israel. Maybe Israel they must finish it and get it done.
Verity 2014/08/19 05:37:33 PM
Hamas right on time, as usual.
Steven Kruger 2014/08/19 05:43:31 PM
War is war so you are right. Finish them quickly. Move on
Makhulu Zulu 2014/08/19 05:53:05 PM
Israel is not serious about negotiating anyways. They don't recognise Hamas. They keep on saying that Hamas says that Israel shouldn't exist, yet in reality Palestine doesn't exist. And Israel stops it from being recognised as its own country. Hamas must continue until Israel stops its siege and apartheid.
Ariel Peterson 2014/08/19 06:02:53 PM
Why does Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri not go and sit in the empty fields in Israel and have the peace talks there? Since he believes Hamas will not break the truce.
David Jones 2014/08/19 06:23:46 PM
An IDF soldier is missing and according to reports he was last seen on Sunday. Too bad!
David Luis 2014/08/19 06:42:07 PM
"warplanes hit Gaza Tuesday after Palestinian rockets smashed into the south as the two sides were observing a 24-hour truce"... read carefully please. for the umpteenth time the murderer terrorist organization Hamas violates a cease-fire and STARTS A NEW FIGHT by firing rockets towards Israeli civilian population. those rockets are not toys, they are designed and capable of causing destruction and death, which is what HAMAS wants to do to Israel. Now they are going to cry again when they get shot and bombed....
Markie Crichton 2014/08/19 06:47:21 PM
End Time Sign – WAR Matthew 24:6-7 ...'And ye shall hear of wars ... For nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.' End Time Sign - VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL IMMORALITY Matthew 24:37 ...'But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.' What was it like in Noah's day and Lot's day? Two Bible verses to see what it was like. Genesis 6:13 tells us that in Noah's day the "earth was filled with VIOLENCE." Read Jude 1:7 End Time Sign – EARTHQUAKES Matthew 24:7 ...'and earthquakes in divers places.'Remember, these signs are to intensify during the last days, and that is exactly what is happening with earthquakes, VIOLENCE…. End Time Sign - INCREASE OF KNOWLEDGE Daniel 12:4 ...'even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.' End Time Sign – FAMINE Matthew 24:7 ...'and there shall be famine.' To many to mention. With regards to Israel- well since 1948 many have tried to wipe them off the map. God says in The Bible) it ain’t going to happen, period.
Anthoula Joshua 2014/08/19 06:49:25 PM
Hamas don't care how many people die. They want all the land and every Israeli whether Jewish, Christian or Musim killed to reach their goal. I won't be surprised if there is another militant group active there too. Wanting war and killing goes against the faith of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Budhist etc......
Ahmed Essop Bullu 2014/08/19 07:20:06 PM
These Israelis should learn from south africa. Oppression and apartheid has to fall some day. The ANC was also called a terrorist organisation but eventually the apartheid government had to negotiate a settlement. Mr. Madiba refused to give up the arm struggle. And if one goes into history the Jews lived in peace and security under muslim rule. Hamas will be the biggest fools to lay down their arms.