Israel Resumes Airstrikes On Gaza, As Cease-Fire Chance Slips Away
By Bill Chappell
Israel has resumed its airstrikes on Gaza as a proposed cease-fire that would have ended eight days of fighting failed.
Initially, Israel had agreed to the Egyptian-brokered deal to stop hostilities. But some leaders of Hamas balked at the plan, and militants continued to fire rockets into Israel from Gaza this morning after Israel suspended its airstrikes.
News that the strikes have begun again comes shortly after an Israeli defense ministry spokesman denied that they had resumed.
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Despite Israel saying it had accepted the proposal, "a Hamas official said Egypt did not consult with Hamas on the cease-fire, and Hamas did not accept it," Daniel Estrin reports for NPR from Jerusalem. "There was more rocket fire on southern Israel. One rocket hit a house, and in another rocket attack, an Israeli soldier was lightly injured by shrapnel."
Under the deal, all fighting was supposed to wind down at 9 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET), and the two sides were to prepare for talks to be held in Cairo this week. But while Israel stopped its airstrikes, the militants' rocket attacks continued.
After some Hamas officials rejected the deal to end the violence that is now in its eighth day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal and the rocket fire from Gaza does not cease, and that appears to be the case, we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation to protect our people."
Within Hamas, the strongest resistance to the cease-fire deal is coming from al-Qassam, its military wing. The group issued a statement today that said the cease-fire resembles a surrender. But the situation seems to be in flux, says NPR's Emily Harris, reporting from Gaza.
"The No. 2 Hamas leader, outside of Gaza, has put out on his Twitter feed a note that Hamas has not yet declared its official position on any cease-fire," Emily says, "and Hamas is focusing on getting something they want out of the cease-fire, not just quitting because Israel says it's time to stop fighting."
Some of their requirements, Emily says, have to do with opening Gaza to more border crossings and trade, as the isolated group looks to replace smuggling tunnels to Egypt, once a lifeline and a source of revenue, that were closed last year.
As Linda Gradstein reports, the eight days of violence have taken a toll.
"An Israeli army spokeswoman said that since the fighting began last week, Hamas has fired more than 1,000 rockets at southern Israel and Israel has bombed 1,600 sites affiliated with Hamas in Gaza. The Gaza health ministry says almost 200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed, and more than 1,000 wounded."
Many of the Hamas rockets have been intercepted by Israel's "Iron Dome" missile defense system that protects densely populated areas from attack.