x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Hamas threaten to attack Tel Aviv airport

Militants warn airlines not to fly into Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv.

GAZA CITY // Hamas militants declared peace talks with Israel over on Wednesday and warned airlines against flying into Tel Aviv.

“We are warning international airlines and press them to stop flying into Ben Gurion airport from 6am [0300 GMT] Thursday,” an Ezzedine Al Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida said.

He said Hamas was abandoning efforts to negotiate a durable ceasefire with Israel at Egyptian-brokered talks after a temporary cesaefire collapsed on Tuesday night.

“We are calling on the Palestinian delegation to withdraw immediately from Cairo and not to return,” Abu Obeida said in a speech broadcast on Hamas’s Al Aqsa TV channel.

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile said the Israeli operation in Gaza was not over and would last as long as was needed to restore security to Israel.

Gaza has been hit by nearly 100 airstrikes since the truce collapsed, according to the Israeli military, and Palestinians have fired more than 140 rockets at Israel.

The US aviation authority last month stopped American airlines from flying to Ben Guiron after rockets fired from Gaza landed near the airport, and several other international airlines followed suit, but the ban was lifted within two days.

The Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida said an Israeli airstrike on the home of its military commander Mohammed Deif had failed to kill him, although his wife and infant son had died.

They were among at least 20 people killed and 120 injured in renewed Israeli strikes on Gaza since Tuesday night.

The Arab League blamed Israel for the collapse of the ceasfire and the peace talks.

“Israel is blocking any kind of agreement leading to calm” in the Gaza Strip, Arab League chief Nabil Al Arabi said before leaving Cairo for a meeting in Geneva with the International Committee of the Red Cross to demand protection of Palestinian civilians.

The latest deaths in Gaza have raised the overall death toll since July 8 to at least 2,038, with more than 10,300 people wounded, said Ashraf Al Qedra, spokesman for Gaza’s emergency services.

The Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas will discuss the situation in Gaza with the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Doha on Thursday, the Qatar News Agency reported.

The Egyptian foreign ministry on Wednesday expressed “deep regret” over the breaking of the ceasefire. It said it “continues bilateral contacts” with both sides aimed at restoring calm and securing a lasting truce that “serves the interest of the Palestinian people, especially in relation to the opening of the crossings and reconstruction”.

In the talks, Hamas sought an end to a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed when it seized power in Gaza in 2007, while Israel wanted guarantees that the Islamic militant group will disarm.

Egypt appears to have made little headway in nearly a week of indirect talks to resolve the differences. Late Monday, it secured a 24-hour ceasefire extension to allow for a last-ditch attempt to reach a deal.

An Egyptian compromise proposal calls for easing the blockade, but not lifting it altogether or opening the territory’s air and seaports, as Hamas has demanded.

While the plan does not require Hamas to give up its weapons, it would give the western-backed Palestinian President Abbas, whose forces were ousted by Hamas in 2007, a foothold back in Gaza running border crossings and overseeing internationally-backed reconstruction.

The Gaza blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people, restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent Hamas and other militant groups from getting weapons, but critics say the measures have amounted to collective punishment.

The latest round of Gaza fighting started after Israel arrested of hundreds of Hamas members in the West Bank in the aftermath of the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June. Their deaths were followed by the slaying of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem in what was a likely revenge attack.

* Agence France-Press and Asociated Press