Israel resumes air strikes on Gaza as ceasefire fails

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic on the Gaza-Israel border: Egyptian proposal for ceasefire unravels within hours

Smoke rises after an attack on Gaza City on Tuesday. Israel resumed air strikes on the Gaza Strip, six hours after it unilaterally accepted a truce but armed groups in Gaza continued firing rockets. Photograph:  EPA

Smoke rises after an attack on Gaza City on Tuesday. Israel resumed air strikes on the Gaza Strip, six hours after it unilaterally accepted a truce but armed groups in Gaza continued firing rockets. Photograph: EPA

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 01:00

Explosions shook the Gaza strip and rocket sirens sounded across southern Israeli towns last night after an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas unravelled within hours.

As darkness fell, plumes of smoke rose from bombed buildings along the northern Gaza Strip and dozens of thunderous explosions signalled rocket interceptions on the Israeli side. The buzz of low-flying drones could be heard across the region.

Israel resumed its bombardment of Gaza shortly after agreeing to the truce, citing continuing rocket fire from the coastal enclave. Hamas’s military wing had rejected the ceasefire, saying it had not been consulted by the Egyptians.

Israeli tanks remain massed long the Gaza border, but in spite of a call for a “full take-over” of the enclave by foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is thought to be reluctant to order a ground invasion. Mr Netanyahu said a “broader” offensive was set to begin, however.

Close to 200 people, many of them civilians, have been killed in Gaza since the latest confrontation began last week, and international pressure for a cessation is building. Gaza hospitals are reporting a shortage of medicine and equipment, and 600 foreign passport-holders have arranged to leave today.

Hundreds of rockets have been fired into Israel, which suffered its first fatality of the clashes last night when a civilian was killed by mortar shrapnel at the Erez border crossing.

Israeli targets

The Israeli military said it fired 30 missiles into Gaza after its resumption of strikes at 3pm yesterday, with reports on the ground indicating much of the bombing was directed at open areas in the Khan Yunis and Bureij refugee camps. Israel said its resumption of air strikes, bringing the total since last week to over 1,300, followed the firing of 50 rockets and mortar shells into Israel in the first six hours after the ceasefire was due to have begun.

The al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, issued a rejection of the truce plan, saying: “Our battle with the enemy continues and will increase in ferocity and intensity.” It described the Egyptian proposal as a “surrender”.

More than 900 rockets and mortars have landed within Israel. Only a fraction landed in urban regions.

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