Ten-year-old among first deaths as truce breaks down in Gaza
GAZA CITY // A 10-year-old boy was among five Palestinians killed in renewed airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Friday after Egyptian-brokered talks failed to extend a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Fighters in the Hamas-controlled enclave fired salvos of rockets at Israel as the 72-hour truce expired at 8am, prompting the Israeli military to carry out a series of strikes on the besieged territory.
The exchange of fire ended a three-day lull after four weeks of fighting that claimed nearly 1,900 Palestinian lives, most of them civilian.
The end of the ceasefire came as little surprise to Mohammed Aziz, an unemployed 20-year-old.
“All we know in Gaza is war,” he said, standing in front of his apartment building in the Sheikh Zayed housing complex inthe Beit Lahia area of Gaza.
He said he expected the war continue for months because Hamas and Israel would not be able to come to terms, namely on the issue of lifting Israel’s siege on Gaza.
Egyptian brokers toiled until the 11th hour to extend the truce so as to foster talks for concluding a lasting ceasefire, but the positions of Israel and the Palestinians appear almost unbridgeable.
Hamas, represented in Cairo by members of various Palestinian factions, insists on an end to the siege that Israel imposed on Gaza after the Islamist group took control of the territory in 2007.
Israel wants to either disarm Hamas or prevent it from re-arming, something the Islamist group, which formally calls for Israel’s destruction, is not likely to accept.
The head of the Palestinian negotiating team said on Friday that it was is committed to reaching a ceasefire agreement and would remain in Cairo, although it was not clear whether the Israeli delegation that left Cairo shortly before the ceasefire expired would return.
“We told the Egyptians we are sitting here to achieve a final agreement that restores the rights” of Palestinians, Azzam Al Ahmed said.
The Egyptian foreign ministry said the talks had achieved some progress before hostilities resumed, “but some limited points remained undecided, a matter that should have led to an acceptance to renew the ceasefire”, and called for “an immediate return to a ceasefire”.
“When Hamas broke the ceasefire, when Hamas launched rockets and mortar shells at Israel, they broke the premise of the talks,” said the government spokesman Mark Regev.
“There will not be negotiations under fire.”
All but three of the 67 Israelis killed in the fighting were soldiers, many of them killed in clashes with Hamas fighters inside Gaza. Israel withdrew its troops from the territory but says it is ready to continue to fight as long as necessary.
Officials in Gaza said Israeli air raids targeted a number of areas, including an attack that hit an area adjacent to the Nour Al Mohammadi Mosque in the Sheik Radwan neighbourhood of Gaza City.
Zuheir Al Dawawseh, 10, was killed in that attack and five other people injured, said Gaza’s health ministry spokesperson, Ashraf Al Qedra.
Gaza officials also said Israeli fire struck a house belonging to the clan of Mahmoud Zahar, a founding member of Hamas who has been in hiding along with the group’s other senior leaders throughout the fighting.
The house in Gaza City’s Zeitoun area had about 20 people in it at the time of the attack, although emergency responders had not reached the scene by the time reports of the strike began trickling out.
Israeli police said at least two people in Israel were injured, while the military banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people in areas within 80 kilometres of the Gaza border. That includes Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where some of the more 3,200 Palestinian-launched rockets reached during the fighting.
The three-day ceasefire allowed many people who had fled their homes to return. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said the number of displaced people in its 89 shelters fell from a peak of almost 273,000 to 171,240 as of Thursday.
However, residents in northern Gaza who returned to the area once again fled on Friday for fear of Israeli strikes. Thousands of residents of towns such as Beit Hanoun and Jabalia heeded Israeli warnings to leave their areas at the beginning of the war, many staying with friends, relatives or shelters at UN-run schools. Many were seen returning to the schools yesterday, after having returned to their homes, many of which sustained damage or total destruction by Israeli ground forces, airstrikes and shelling.
Mohammed Mahmoud, 19, said he and his family were too afraid of Israeli attacks to return to his home near Beit Hanoun. Staying at an aunt’s house since the beginning of the war, he complained of shortages of electricity and water.
“We go several days without water. It’s terrible but this is what we deal with in Gaza,” said Mr Mahmoud, who has not been able to work at his refrigerator-repair shop since the war started on July 8.
The fourth floor of Mr Aziz’s building was blown out by a “warning” rocket and then two Israeli airstrikes earlier in the war, with concrete and linens dangling from edges of the destroyed flat.
His cousins were staying in the three-bedroom apartment, but managed to escape before the attacks.
“Israel will never let us know anything but life in war,” Mr Aziz said.
* With reporting by Agence France-Presse and Associated Press
Updated: August 9, 2014 04:00 AM