Israeli air strikes kill 2 Palestinians, 20 wounded

Gaza/Jerusalem - Israeli air strikes launched before dawn on Tuesday killed two Palestinians and destroyed much of one of Gaza's tallest apartment and office buildings, setting off huge explosions and wounding 20 people, Palestinian health officials said.

Israel had no immediate comment on the attacks that took place as Egyptian mediators stepped up efforts to achieve an elusive ceasefire to end seven weeks of fighting.

Palestinian health officials say 2 125 people, most of them civilians, including more than 490 children, have been killed in Gaza since 8 July, when Israel launched an offensive with the declared aim of ending rocket fire into its territory.

Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and four civilians in Israel have been killed.

Palestinian officials said 70 families lived in the 13-storey building, which was listing to one side after the blasts. The structure also housed offices and a shopping complex.

Hundreds of neighbours in surrounding homes were also evacuating to avoid being hurt if the structure collapses, witnesses said.

Rocket fire

Fatalities were averted by warnings to residents to vacate the premises and two non-explosive warning missiles fired by drones.

The attacks followed a day of heavy rocket fire at Israel, whose military said more than 130 rockets and mortar bombs were fired from Gaza on Monday, one of them injuring a civilian.

Militants resumed rocket fire at Israel after daybreak and a rocket struck a house in the southern coastal town of Ashekelon, lightly wounding 10 people, police said. Another was intercepted over the Tel Aviv area, an army spokeswoman said.

Hamas claimed responsibility for firing rockets at Tel Aviv, at least one of which was shot down by Israel's Iron Dome interceptor. Warning sirens were also heard in Israeli communities bordering Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Israeli air strikes on Tuesday killed at least nine Palestinians in Gaza.

Two rockets were fired at Israel across the Lebanese border as well after nightfall on Monday. The Israeli military said it responded by firing artillery shells at the "source of the attack". There were no reported injuries on either side.

Despite the raging violence, there were signs the sides might be edging towards a new ceasefire.

Egypt proposes indefinite truce

Qais Abu Leila, a senior Palestinian official involved in Egyptian-mediated talks to reach a truce, said Cairo had proposed an indefinite ceasefire.

Israeli media said a deal could come within hours. Several earlier truces have collapsed after a few days.

Cairo's latest initiative calls for the immediate opening of Gaza's crossings with Israel and Egypt to aid reconstruction efforts in the coastal strip, to be followed by talks on a longer-term easing of the blockade.

Hamas and Israel blamed each other for delaying agreement, and the negotiations have been additionally complicated by the fact both sides refuse to talk to each other and communicate only indirectly, largely via Egyptian intermediaries.

An Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity said Israel would consider the proposal once assured that Hamas was ready to accept it.

Hamas has said it will not stop fighting until the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the enclave of 1.8 million people is lifted.

War damage

Both Israel and Egypt view Hamas as a security threat and are demanding guarantees that weapons will not enter the economically crippled territory. Israel recalled its negotiators from Cairo last Tuesday after the last ceasefire collapsed.

The United States has separately begun preparing its own draft outline for a proposed United Nations resolution to demand a ceasefire, working alongside European powers and Jordan on a final draft, diplomats said on Monday.

Thousands of homes in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or damaged in the conflict. Nearly 500 000 people have been displaced in the territory where Palestinians, citing Israeli attacks that have hit schools and mosques, say no place is safe.

Israel has said Hamas bears responsibility for civilian casualties, because it operates among non-combatants. The group, it said, uses schools and mosques to store weapons and as launch sites for cross-border rocket attacks.

Israel took steps on Tuesday to protect its economy from further war damage.

The Bank of Israel, fearing the conflict will slow economic growth, cut its benchmark interest rate by a quarter-point to 0.25%, its lowest level. The bank said the war might shave half a point off GDP, which is forecast at 2.9% in 2014, as tourism and consumer spending are hit.

Read more on: palestine israel gaza
Jonathan Fisher 2014/08/26 08:16:32 AM
A permanent cease-fire will not exist succeed with an enemy that states its objective as the destruction of Israel and the Islamisation of the world
Cyberfriend 2014/08/26 08:19:29 AM
After the almost 500 children tragically lost their lives, Israel is now willing to lift the blockade. it looks more like Israel systematically wanted to reduce the number of Palestinians and have reached their quota of children.
Nigel van Ysendyk 2014/08/26 08:22:57 AM
Hammas is becoming more & more extremist, & the people of Palestine are going to suffer the most, I think Palestinians made a big mistake by allowing a Hamas\Fatah government to form knowing that Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organisation by Isreal & the West with strong ties to the militant Muslim brotherhood. If you want peace you don't pick warlords, you pick negotiators.
Marc Ross 2014/08/26 08:27:01 AM
Why does Egypt have a blockade on Palestine? I didn't know they were allies of Israel and they are also predominantly Muslim. So why the blockade and why is no-one protesting against Egypt? Someone please explain.
David Luis 2014/08/26 08:54:31 AM
News24, here is some information you forgot to mention. On Friday a 4 year old child was killed in Nahal Oz (Israel) from a mortar bomb fired from Gaza. since then until now at least 36 Israelis were wounded from mortars and rockets.... How about giving the full picture? and it is worthwile noting that HAMAS broke (again) the cease-fire.
James Uknow 2014/08/26 10:12:14 AM
how easy it is to use religion as excuse for what is happening here ,HAMAS has repeatedly said it will respect 1967 borders ,and are then willing to hand over their weapons to Palestinian authority ,International law gives palestinians the right to fight an occypying force ,International law also states the settlements in Palestine are illegal ,so who doesnt respect the law here ,dont use what is happening in other countries as excuse for oppression ,yes Egypt has a blockade ,but this country is run by military dictatorship who kill their own people ,seems dictators are okay as long as they serve Israelie and USA interest ,dont care how they murder their own people ,a christian Palestinian girl in GAZA in interview said when she is strong enougth she will fight with the resistance ,this is not a muslim issue but human issue
Darren Marcus 2014/08/26 11:49:02 AM
All these Hamas supporters must piss off now ! Yes it's sad 2000 killed ! Why are they killed ? Simple they continue to fire at Israel ! When they stop firing at Israel and someone gets killed then you can cry foul play !
Maghmoeda Galant 2014/08/26 01:38:11 PM
O Allah! Reconcile (with love and understanding) between our hearts. And resolve our (broken) affairs. And guide us towards peace and paths of freedom from strife. And take us out of the darkness (of falsehood, ignorance, evil and fury) to the brightness (of truth and respect) Insha Allah Ameen!
Zaheer Ismail 2014/08/26 03:10:50 PM