Girl (2) among first Gaza deaths after truce ends

Israel carries out strikes in response to Palestinian rockets as it recalls negotiators from talks in Cairo

A plume of smoke  after what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Gaza City  today. Photograph: Suhaib Salem/Reuters

A plume of smoke after what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Gaza City today. Photograph: Suhaib Salem/Reuters

Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 21:52

A two-year-old Gaza girl and a woman were killed in an Israeli air strike today, making them the first Palestinian deaths in the conflict since the breakdown of a truce earlier in the day, Palestinian health officials said.

Palestinians said Israel launched 35 air attacks, one of them on a house in Gaza City, which killed the woman and the child.

Israel said it ordered retaliatory raids when militants violated a truce by firing rockets at Israel. The ceasefire had been set to expire at 9pm GMT.

Tweet from Israeli Defence Forces

The Israeli military tonight urged Israelis living as far as 80 kilometres away from Gaza, or beyond the Tel Aviv area, to open bomb shelters , as militants fired dozens of rockets .

Hamas said after a deadly Israeli air strike that it fired 40 rockets at Israel. Israeli media reported at least 30 strikes, with one person injured, and that municipalities in the Tel Aviv area had already reopened shelters shut during a 10-day truce period in the five-week-old Gaza war.

On prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s order, Israeli delegates to the indirect talks with the Palestinians, on ending the Gaza war and charting the territory’s future, flew home.

Israel has said repeatedly that it would not negotiate under fire, and Egyptian mediators have been struggling to end the five-week-old Gaza conflict and seal a deal that would open the way for reconstruction aid to flow to the territory of 1.8 million, where thousands of homes have been destroyed.

The Palestinians want Egypt and Israel to lift their blockades of the economically-crippled Gaza Strip that predated the Israeli offensive launched on July 8 after a surge in cross-border rocket fire by Hamas.

The Palestinian health ministry put the Gaza death toll at 2,016 and said most were civilians in the small, densely populated coastal territory. Israel has said it killed hundreds of Gaza gunmen in the fighting. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have been killed.

Before the latest flare-up, Azzam al-Ahmad, senior leader of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, said there had been “no progress on any point” in the negotiations, in which Israel has said ensuring its security was its paramount concern.

Earlier, in Cairo the chief Palestinian delegate to the indirect negotiations with Israel cautioned that violence could erupt anew if the talks failed.

Israel, like Egypt, views Hamas as a security threat and wants guarantees any removal of border restrictions will not result in militant groups obtaining weapons.

“We hope that every minute of the coming 24 hours will be used to reach an agreement, and if not (successful), the circle of violence will continue,” Mr Ahmad said before hostilities resumed.

Elusive Deal

A senior Palestinian official in Gaza said sticking points to an agreement in the Cairo talks have been Hamas’s demands to build a seaport and an airport, which Israel wants to discuss only at a later stage.

Israel has called for the disarming of militant groups in the enclave. Hamas has said that laying down its weapons is not an option and has blamed Israel for talks faltering.

Punctuated by several temporary ceasefires, the scale of fighting had diminished greatly since Israel pulled its ground troops out of Gaza two weeks ago and it had seemed there was little appetite on either side for the war to drag on.

However, Netanyahu said on Monday the Israeli military was prepared to take “very aggressive action” if shooting against Israel restarted.

Israel and Hamas have not met face-to-face in Cairo, where the talks are being held in a branch of the intelligence agency, with Egyptian mediators shuttling between the parties in separate rooms. Israel regards Hamas, which advocates its destruction, as a terrorist group.

Reuters