At least 62 Palestinians dead as Israel searches for soldier

Fierce fighting lead to collapse of US-brokered truce after less than two hours

Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 14:05

Gaza officials say at least 1,509 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed and 7,000 wounded. Sixty-three Israeli soldiers have been killed and more than 400 hurt. Three civilians have been killed by Palestinian rockets in Israel.

Eight rockets and mortar bombs were fired from Gaza at Israel after the ceasefire began, the military said, adding that one was intercepted by the Iron Dome system and seven hit open areas.

Amid strong public support in Israel for the Gaza campaign, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had faced intense pressure from abroad to stand his forces down.

International calls for an end to the bloodshed intensified after shelling on Wednesday that killed 15 people sheltering in a UN-run school in Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp.

Hamas, isolated in an Arab world concerned about the rise Islamist militancy, is seeking an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza. It also wants a hostile Egypt to ease restrictions at its Rafah crossing with the territory imposed after the military toppled Islamist president Mohamed Mursi last July.

Israel has balked at freeing up Gaza’s borders under any de-escalation deal unless Hamas’s disarmament is also guaranteed.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has criticised international inaction over Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which he described as involving mass slaughter and “war crimes against humanity”, in a speech read out on his behalf on state television. “This (international) community which has observed silently what is happening in the whole region, was indifferent to what is happening, as if what is happening is not its concern. Silence that has no justification,” he said in his speech.

A senior State Department official travelling with Kerry in India had said US Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns would arrive in Cairo tomorrow and that Frank Lowenstein, the acting US envoy for Middle East peace, and another US official, Jonathan Schwartz, would be there today.

Speaking before the renewed fighting, the official said he believed the Palestinians would be in Cairo on today, while the Israelis would arrive tomorrow. After the truce collapsed, two Egyptian officials said there had been no official cancellation of Cairo’s request for the negotiators to come.

The Palestinian delegation would be comprised of Hamas, Western-backed Fatah, the Islamic Jihad militant group and a number of smaller factions, Palestinian officials said.

But US officials said Israel and the United States would not sit across the table from Hamas, which the two countries, along with the European Union, consider a terrorist group.

Reuters