cbc.ca (© Copyright: (C) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, http://www.cbc.ca/aboutcbc/discover/termsofuse.html#Rss)
Updated: Tue, 15 Jul 2014 08:37:40 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Israel resumes airstrikes after Hamas rejects ceasefire



An Israeli man stands at the scene after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza landed in Ashdod July 15, 2014. Hamas militants fired volleys of rockets from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, drawing a threat by Israel to abandon an Egyptian-proposed truce it had unilaterally accepted. Israel said earlier in the day it had ceased fire under the plan to end a week of cross-border hostilities, while a top Hamas official in Cairo said the Islamist movement was still considering it. REUTERS/Amir Cohen (© ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

An Israeli man stands at the scene after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza landed in Ashdod July 15, 2014. Hamas militants fired volleys of rockets from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, drawing a threat by Israel to abandon an Egyptian-proposed truce it had unilaterally accepted. Israel said earlier in the day it had ceased fire under the plan to end a week of cross-border hostilities, while a top Hamas official in Cairo said the Islamist movement was still considering it. REUTERS/Amir Cohen (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3YQ0R Amir Cohen/Reuters

The Israeli military says it has resumed airstrikes on Gaza after Hamas militants rejected a de-escalation brokered by Egypt.

Military spokesman Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner says that after holding its fire for six hours, Israel has "resumed operational activities."

The military said that during the six hours, Gaza militants fired about 50 rockets all over Israel. No injuries were reported.The de-escalation period was meant to lead to detailed ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas and end a week of fighting that has killed more than 190 Palestinians and exposed millions of Israelis to rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel initially accepted Cairo's plan, but warned it would strike Gaza even harder than it has to date if Hamas didn't abide by it as well.

The Islamic militant group didn't close the door to truce talks, however. It appeared instead to be holding out for better conditions, with senior officials saying the Egyptian plan offers no tangible achievements, particularly on easing a border blockade of the coastal strip, which has been enforced by Israel and Egypt for the past seven years.

It is the third major round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in just over five years — but also one in which the impact on Israel has been much mitigated by the success of its Iron Dome air defence system in shooting down Hamas's rockets and preventing Israeli fatalities to date.

The previous bout, in 2012, eventually ended with the help of Egypt, at the time seen as a trusted broker by Hamas.

But Hamas deeply distrusts Egypt's current rulers, who ousted a Hamas-friendly government in Egypt a year ago, and have tightened the border blockade on Gaza.

Israel denies launching airstrike

Under the Egyptian plan proposed late Monday, a 12-hour period of de-escalation was to begin at mid-morning Tuesday. If both sides had agreed to halt hostilities, they would would have begun negotiating the terms of a longer-term truce.

Israel initially accepted the proposal at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that "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."

Gaza militants fired at least 35 rockets at Israel after mid-morning Tuesday, hours past the Egypt-proposed time for de-escalation.

The Israeli military said several rockets reached deep into Israel, including near the northern port city of Haifa. Sirens also went off in the towns of Hadera and Zichron Yaakov, more than 100 kilometres north of Gaza.

The military wing of Hamas, which has been responsible for most of the hundreds of rockets launched at Israel in the past week, said the Egyptian plan "wasn't worth the ink it was written with."

On Tuesday, the Israeli military denied it launched an airstrike on Gaza following the mid-morning start of the de-escalation period, after Hamas police spokesman Eyad Bouzam reported an Israeli strike on an apartment building in northern Gaza.

​Hamas officials also complained that they hadn't been consulted by Egypt about the ceasefire plan.

They said they need detailed assurances that Gaza's borders will be opened, particularly the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the territory's main gate to the world.

Egypt has sharply curtailed travel in and out of Gaza over the past year, following last year's ouster of the Hamas-allied Muslim Brotherhood from power by the Egyptian military.

Hamas also wants to be recognized by Egypt as a partner in any truce efforts. "We did not receive any official draft of this Egyptian proposal," said Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official in Gaza. He said the Egyptian plan, as is, is "not acceptable."

Border a key bargaining point

OsamaHamdan, a key aide to top Hamas leader KhaledMashaal, told The Associated Press that Hamas has a series of demands, including the release of Hamas activists arrested by Israel in the West Bank in recent weeks and a complete opening of the Rafah crossing.

Another Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, sounded more conciliatory, saying internal consultations on the ceasefire proposal are continuing.

Hamas officials are weary of promises by Egypt and Israel to ease the border blockade. Such promises were also part of a truce that ended more than a week of fighting in 2012, but were not fully implemented as the strip remained under blockade.

An easing of the blockade of the coastal strip is key to the survival of Hamas.

Before the outbreak of the latest round of fighting, the militant group found itself in a serious financial crisis because a particularly tight closure by Egypt had prevented cash and goods from coming into the strip through hundreds of smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.

more video