Hundreds of Palestinians turned out yesterday for the funeral of the wife and son of the Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif, who were killed overnight in an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza City.
Hamas had urged Gazans to turn out in force for the funeral in Jabaliya refugee camp, after an attack which left at least one other Palestinian dead and injured a further 15 people. There were fears there could be more bodies under the rubble.
The fate of Deif, one of Hamas’s most senior figures who has survived attempts on his life in the past, is still unknown.
Israel called up 2,000 reserves yesterday, a day after the breakdown of peace talks in Cairo that aimed to bring an end to a six-week war with Palestinian militants in Gaza.
The Israel Defence Forces confirmed that Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers were at the Gaza border after 120 rockets were fired into Israel as the truce collapsed overnight. There is no indication yet whether Israel will launch a second ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources said 19 people had been killed in Israeli air strikes since Tuesday night, bring the Palestinian death toll during the war to 2,035, with more than 10,000 injured. A total of 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians – one of whom was a Thai national – have also died in the conflict.
Israel accused Hamas of violating the latest of a series of temporary ceasefires. It said three rockets were launched from Gaza on Tuesday evening and landed in an area near the southern city of Be’er Sheva.
Iron Dome reactivated
Iron Dome, Israel’s anti-missile defence system, was quickly reactivated and sirens sounded in the centre and south of the country, and bomb shelters within 50 miles of the Gaza border were reopened.
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation said no militant group had claimed responsibility for firing the three rockets that broke the ceasefire.
The situation escalated quickly, with rockets fired from Gaza later targeting Jerusalem and Ben Gurion airport. Yesterday a direct hit was reported on a house near the southern city of Ashkelon, and Hamas claimed to have targeted for the first time an Israeli offshore platform off the Gazan coast.
An air strike in Gaza yesterday morning killed seven members of one family, including a woman and three children.
The offices of the Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa television were hit in another of at least 60 air strikes following the breakdown of the ceasefire. Hundreds of civilians fled their homes for UN shelters.
Gaza had been relatively quiet for the previous eight days under two successive ceasefires that allowed negotiations to proceed. A third 24-hour ceasefire was agreed in Cairo late on Monday night and was due to expire at midnight on Tuesday.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered his negotiating team to leave talks on Tuesday. "The Cairo talks were based on an agreed premise of a total cessation of hostilities," said the Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.
“When Hamas breaks the ceasefire they also break the premise for the Cairo talks. Accordingly the Israeli team has been called back as a result of today’s rocket fire.” It is not clear whether the team will return.
Palestinian negotiators also left Cairo, blaming Israel for the talks’ failure. “Israel thwarted the contacts that could have brought peace,” said the chief Palestinian negotiator, Azzam al-Ahmed.
The Palestinians had presented a final set of demands, he said, but Israel was “trying to impose what they want. This is impossible for us as Palestinians to accept . . . the process of procrastination and stalling continues.”
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, issued a statement condemning the breakdown of the ceasefire, adding that he was "gravely disappointed by the return to hostilities". He urged the sides not to allow matters to escalate.
– (Guardian Service)