Gaza rocket attack ends talks on peace

Israel airstrikes counter truce break

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JERUSALEM — Mil­i­tants in Gaza broke a tem­po­rary cease-fire by launch­ing rock­ets at Is­rael on Tues­day, and Is­rael re­sponded with air­strikes. The re­sump­tion of hos­til­i­ties shut down talks in Cairo that seek a per­ma­nent truce be­tween Is­rael and Ha­mas af­ter more than a month of war.

The two sides, though ex­hausted by the con­flict, vowed to con­tinue fight­ing. Each side, Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­ja­min Netan­yahu and Gaza’s Ha­mas lead­er­ship, in­sists on de­mands that the other re­jects.

Amid the re­newed rocket fire and air­strikes, the chances of a last­ing truce ap­pear dim. In­stead, it seems likely that Is­rael may make some uni­lat­eral con­ces­sions, such as eas­ing re­stric­tions on im­ports of build­ing ma­teri­als to the Gaza Strip, as long as Ha­mas re­frains from rocket at­tacks.

Ha­mas and the other mil­i­tant fac­tions in Gaza fired more than 50 rock­ets at Is­rael on Tues­day. Sirens sounded over Jeru­sa­lem, and a rocket landed on a high­way near Tel Aviv. No in­ju­ries were re­ported.

Ghas­san Khatib, a Pal­es­tin­ian po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst based in the West Bank city of Ramal­lah, said the fu­ture may be marked by frag­ile, in­for­mal cease-fires that are bro­ken by rocket at­tacks from Gaza and Is­raeli re­sponses. “But we won’t go back to a full-fledged war be­cause the cost is too high,” he said.

Ha­mas and Is­rael have fought two pre­vi­ous small-scale wars. In 2009, hos­til­i­ties ended with­out a for­mal truce. In 2012, Egypt bro­kered a cease-fire, but it was re­peat­edly breached.

Lead­ers of Ha­mas and other mil­i­tant fac­tions in Gaza blame Is­rael for the col­lapse of the Cairo talks. Ha­mas spokes­man Sami Abu Zuhri said, “Is­rael’s foot-drag­ging proves it has no will to reach a truce deal,” ac­cord­ing to the Is­raeli news­pa­per Haaretz. Islamic Ji­had leader Khaled al-Batsh told the Pal­es­tin­ian news agency Maan that the Is­rae­lis were re­fus­ing to make con­ces­sions and at­tempt­ing to break the Pal­es­tin­ians’ will.

A se­nior spokes­man for the Is­rael De­fense Forces, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said mil­i­tants in Gaza broke the lat­est 24-hour cease-fire by first shoot­ing rock­ets at south­ern Is­rael. Later, he said, Ha­mas fired lon­ger-range rock­ets at Jeru­sa­lem and Tel Aviv.

Is­raeli forces struck 25 sites in Gaza. The Gaza Health Min­is­try said a woman and a child were killed in the at­tacks, and that 25 were in­jured.

“The sit­u­a­tion be­tween Is­rael and the Pal­es­tin­ians is in very deep and dan­ger­ous cri­sis, which has gone from bad to worse in the last two months,” said Yoram Meital, chair­man of the Chaim Her­zog Center for Mid­dle East Studies and Di­plo­macy at Ben-Gu­rion Univer­sity in Is­rael. “I think the chance of a com­pre­hen­sive agree­ment is in­cred­i­bly low, be­cause the sides, Is­rael and Ha­mas, pre­fer a cease-fire with­out an agree­ment, rather than an agree­ment that re­quires com­pro­mise on core de­mands,” he said.

In the ne­go­ti­a­tions in Cairo, Is­rael was seek­ing guar­an­tees of “peace and quiet,” a ces­sa­tion of all rocket fire and tun­nel op­er­a­tions, and, ul­ti­mately, the dis­arm­ing of Ha­mas and the de­mil­i­tariza­tion of the Gaza Strip.

For their part, Ha­mas and the Pal­es­tin­ian Au­thor­ity in the West Bank want an end to “the siege” on Gaza, an open­ing of all bor­der cross­ings and lift­ing of trade and travel re­stric­tions im­posed by Is­rael and Egypt that have turned the coastal en­clave into what the Pal­es­tin­ians call “an open-air prison.” The Pal­es­tin­ians also want to re­ha­bil­i­tate Gaza’s Yasser Ara­fat In­ter­na­tional Air­port, which has been closed for 13 years, and build a sea­port, so they do not have to de­pend on Is­rael and Egypt for gate­ways to the world.

The Pal­es­tin­ian death toll reached 2,018 Tues­day, ac­cord­ing to the Gaza Health Min­is­try. The dead in­cluded 542 chil­dren younger than 18, the min­is­try said. Sixty-four Is­raeli sol­diers have been killed in the con­flict, along with two Is­raeli ci­vil­ians and one guest worker.

israel - egypt - Middle East - Africa - Jerusalem - Palestinian territories - North Africa - Israeli armed forces - Israel government - Palestinian territories government - West Bank - Gaza Strip - Benjamin Netanyahu - Cairo - Tel Aviv - Hamas - Yasser Arafat


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