MIDDLE EAST

Hamas fires more rockets from Gaza after Israel accepts ceasefire deal

Israel approves Egyptian-proposed Gaza truce but Hamas militants reject the truce

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 July, 2014, 5:10pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 11:05am

Hamas has vowed to intensify its attacks on Israel rather than agree to an Egyptian truce proposal for Gaza.

Israel said yesterday it would weigh the ceasefire plan, which has US backing, as the death toll in the week-long conflict rose to 186 Palestinians. No Israelis have died, though four have been seriously injured.

The truce proposal came as Egyptian state media reported that US Secretary of State John Kerry was due in Cairo to discuss an end to the hostilities, and after Washington warned Israel against a ground invasion of Gaza.

Watch: The battle between Israel and Hamas militants continues

US President Barack Obama welcomed the Egyptian initiative and described the deaths of Palestinian civilians as a "tragedy" while reiterating that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas rocket attacks.

"We are encouraged that Egypt has made a proposal to accomplish this goal that we hope can restore the calm that we are seeking," Obama said at an Iftar dinner marking the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the White House.

"The pictures that we are seeing in Gaza and in Israel are heart-wrenching," he added.

Israel's Operation Protective Edge, intended to stamp out militant rocket fire, had killed 186 people in Gaza by late Monday.

Late on Monday, Cairo announced a proposal for a ceasefire to begin yesterday, saying it was willing to host high-level Israeli and Palestinian delegations for talks after a truce went into effect.

"6am GMT [Tuesday] has been set for the beginning of the implementation of truce arrangements between the two sides," the text of the Egyptian proposal, released late on Monday, said.

But that deadline was likely to be delayed, with Israel saying its security cabinet would meet to weigh the proposal.

And Hamas appeared to reject the idea, with spokesman Fawzi Barhum saying the group would not accept a truce without a fully-fledged deal to end hostilities. "In times of war, you don't cease fire and then negotiate," he said.

He said Hamas had not received any official proposal, and even an Israeli cessation of hostilities would have "no value" after the damage it has wreaked in Gaza.

Hamas' armed wing Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades rejected the truce proposal as "surrender", saying "our battle with the enemy will intensify."

The Arab League backed the Egyptian initiative, calling on "all parties" to accept the truce and supported a Palestinian demand for "international protection".

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, welcomed the Egyptian initiative.

Among the issues to be discussed in any truce deal is the easing of the flow of goods into Gaza, which has been subject to an Israeli blockade for years.

Hamas has said it wants Israel's blockade on Gaza lifted, along with the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in any truce deal.

 

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