Despite intensive Egyptian mediation efforts to end 10 days of fighting between Israel and the militant Hamas organisation, the two sides continued to exchange blows today and Hamas leaders said any ceasefire would have to meet their conditions.
Hamas rocket fire on Israel and Israeli air strikes on Gaza resumed after a largely observed five-hour humanitarian truce expired. Hamas fired 40 rockets at Israel after the 3pm deadline, causing no casualties. The Israeli air force mounted 15 strikes on targets in the crowded coastal enclave, an army spokeswoman said.
More than 220 Palestinians have been killed during the conflict, most of them civilians, according to Gaza health officials. One Israeli died in a mortar attack.
The BBC and other news organisations today quoted an Israeli official as saying that a ceasefire would go into effect at 6am local time on Friday. But Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman denied there was any such agreement, telling Israeli ambassadors that the report was “far from reflecting the reality”. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, was terse when asked whether there was an agreement. “I’m not aware of it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Mushir Masri told al-Quds TV that the Islamist movement still has not heard back from Egypt regarding the conditions it has set for a ceasefire.
In pictures: Israeli/Palestinian clashes
In pictures: Israeli/Palestinian clashes
1/10 Israeli/Palestinian clashes
Israeli security and a Palestinian stone thrower clash in the Shuafat neighborhood in Israeli-annexed Arab East Jerusalem
2/10 Israeli/Palestinian clashes
A Palestinian protestor directs fireworks toward Israeli police during clashes in Shuafat neighborhood in Israeli-annexed Arab East Jerusalem
3/10 Israeli/Palestinian clashes
An Israeli police officer during clashes with Palestinians in Jerusalem
4/10 Israeli/Palestinian clashes
Masked Palestinian protestors take cover as they throw stones toward Israeli police during clashes in Shuafat neighborhood in Israeli-annexed Arab East Jerusalem
5/10 Israeli/Palestinian clashes
Israeli army soldiers take positions during clashes with Palestinians in an early morning in the West Bank city of Jenin
6/10 Israeli/Palestinian clashes
Palestinians set tyres ablaze during clashes with Israeli police in Shuafat, an Arab suburb of Jerusalem July 2, 2014.
7/10 Israeli/Palestinian clashes
A Palestinian argues with Israeli border police in Jerusalem on Wednesday, July 2, 2014.
8/10 Israeli/Palestinian clashes
Palestinian protestors gather behind a barrier as they throw stones toward Israeli police during clashes in the Shuafat neighborhood in Israeli-annexed Arab East Jerusalem, on July 2, 2014, after a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and killed in an apparent act of revenge for the murder by militants of three Israeli youths.
AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images
9/10 Israeli/Palestinian clashes
Palestinian youths clash with Israeli Police near to the house of murdered Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdair, in Jerusalem on July 2, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel.
Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images
10/10 Israeli/Palestinian clashes
Masked Palestinian protesters throw stones toward Israeli police during clashes in the Shuafat neighborhood in Israeli-annexed Arab East Jerusalem
Mofeed Al-Hasaina, who served as minister of public works and housing, told The Independent that any peace deal would need to be guaranteed by the international community to stop Israel reneging on its terms. “Yes of course we need a ceasefire, and I think it will come – but it cannot be an unconditional one.”
“We need the Israelis to at least fulfil the conditions of the 2012 agreement [that ended the previous war]. Then we want them to open the borders so we are not in a cage they can bomb from time to time.”
An Israeli delegation flew on Wednesday night to the Egyptian capital for talks with officials on a truce agreement. Hamas representatives were also meeting Egyptian officials. The moderate Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, was in Cairo working with Hamas deputy political chief Musa Abu Marzouk to advance ceasefire efforts, an Abbas aide, Azzam Ahmed, who was with him in Egypt, told the Maan news agency. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he was “encouraged” by the contacts.
Egypt gained Israeli agreement to an initial ceasefire proposal on Tuesday, but Hamas rejected this; its demands include that Israel free prisoners released in a 2012 exchange but recently rearrested in a crackdown in the West Bank.
This morning, before the ceasefire began, about 13 Palestinians tried to infiltrate Israel through a “Hamas terror tunnel”, according to an army spokeswoman. She said the tunnel ran from the south of the Gaza Strip to Kibbutz Sufa in southern Israel. The Israelis had thwarted the attempt with an air strike, she added.
Meanwhile, Israel came under sharp criticism from the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. On LBC Radio, he said that the Israeli response to rocket fire “appears to be deliberately disproportionate”.