Israel-Gaza crisis: Conflict resumes after five-hour ceasefire ends and new truce talks continue
Ceasefire comes day after four children from same family killed on beach by Israel missiles
Heather Saul is a digital reporter for The Independent, currently working on the People desk. She has written news and features across a number of topics, paying particular attention to the activities of Isis and events in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Thursday 17 July 2014
The end of a five-hour ceasefire between Israel and Gaza was marked by renewed cross-border fighting, as officials dismissed reports of a new truce agreement.
Hamas fired 10 rockets at Israel after the end of the temporary truce, while Israel launched two airstrikes at the Gaza Strip, security officials told the Associated Press.
Earlier, Israeli security forces said Palestinian militants fired at least three mortar shells from Gaza two hours after the humanitarian ceasefire agreed by both sides to allow Gaza residents to stock up on supplies went into effect.
It comes as Israel's foreign minister and Hamas denied reports that a comprehensive truce agreement has been reached between Israel and Gaza, instead saying talks in Egypt were ongoing.
On Thursday, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine also said 20 rockets were discovered hidden in an empty school in Gaza, and "strongly condemned" the group that put them there.
Earlier, the military said it had thwarted an attack by 13 Gaza militants who they say sneaked into Israel through a tunnel, killing at least one.
Israel said it would stop its five-hour shelling of Gaza from 7am (GMT) – 10am local time – in order to allow Palestinians to restock food, water and other necessities. However, it had warned it would retaliate “firmly and decisively” if Hamas or any other militant groups launch rocket attacks during that period.
Israel had previously agreed to halt its fire for six hours on Tuesday after Egypt brokered a ceasefire proposal that quickly unravelled. Mr Abu Zuhri said on Wednesday his group had formally rejected the plan.
Israel's military said its forces bombed at least 150 targets in Gaza on Wednesday. The Gaza Interior Ministry's website said 30 houses, including those of senior Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar, Jamila Shanti, Fathi Hamas and Ismail Ashkar, were targeted.
Palestinian employees of Gaza City's al-Deira hotel carry a wounded boy following an Israeli military strike nearby on the beach Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said the Palestinian death toll rose to 222, with 1,670 wounded. Only one Israeli has so far died in the conflict - a civilian distributing food to soldiers in southern Israel on Tuesday evening - largely because of the effectiveness of Israel's Iron Dome air defense system in downing incoming rockets.
The four boys, who were cousins aged 9 to 11, were killed on the beach beside a coastal road west of Gaza City, Mr al-Kidra said. Seven others - adults and children - were wounded in the strike, which Palestinian human rights activist Khalil Abu Shamalla and Palestinian health officials said came from an Israeli naval vessel.
A Palestinian man looks at a house destroyed by Israeli Defense Forces during an overnight air strike in Gaza City The Israeli army said in a statement it was “carefully investigating” the matter. It said the target of the naval attack was “Hamas terrorist operatives” and that civilian casualties were “a tragic outcome.”
It said the army “has no intention of harming civilians dragged by Hamas into the reality of urban combat.”
Israel's security Cabinet approved a call-up of 8,000 additional reservists, according to an Israeli official, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to discuss the matter publicly.
The army said 45,000 reservists have already been summoned - a sign that Israel was ramping up its threat to carry out a ground offensive, although experts have said such an action was highly unlikely.
Palestinian children run to collect leaflets dropped by Israeli Defense Forces over the Shuja'iyya neighbourhood in east Gaza City On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas would pay a high price for rejecting the Egyptian plan.
Tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of northern towns in Gaza were told to evacuate their homes by that morning. The Israeli military said in automated phone calls, text messages and air-dropped leaflets that large numbers of rockets were launched from these areas and that it planned to bomb these locations.
“Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately, endangers their own lives, as well as those of their families,” the message said.
Young relatives of four boys, all from the Bakr family, killed during Israeli shelling, cry during their funeral in Gaza City The Wafa Rehabilitation Center in Shijaiyah, which cares for 15 disabled and elderly patients, received several calls demanding the patients evacuate, said its director, Basman Ashi.
An Israel shell hit near the building, damaging the second floor, but causing no injuries, he said. Ashi added that his patients have nowhere to go.
Four foreign volunteers - from Britain, the US, France and Sweden - have set up camp at the rehabilitation center to deter the military from targeting it.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press
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