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Middle East

Israel-Gaza conflict: Hostilities resume as Egypt’s mediation fails and ceasefire expires

Hamas says any peace deal would need to be guaranteed by the international community

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.


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.

A Palestinian man is left distraught after losing relatives in an air strike (EPA)

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”.