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Updated: Tue, 15 Jul 2014 06:11:43 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Israel threatens intensified violence if Hamas rejects ceasefire deal



Palestinian Hamas militants carry a coffin containing the body of their comrade Rami Meshmish during his funeral in the central Gaza Strip April 16, 2014. Meshmish and another fellow militant were killed in an accidental explosion on Wednesday; al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas movement, said in a statement. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (© GAZA - Tags: POLITICS)

Palestinian Hamas militants carry a coffin containing the body of their comrade Rami Meshmish during his funeral in the central Gaza Strip April 16, 2014. Meshmish and another fellow militant were killed in an accidental explosion on Wednesday; al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas movement, said in a statement. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR3LJJR Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is warning Hamas that Israel will intensify its week-long campaign against Gaza militants if Hamas rejects an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire.

The truce was supposed to go into effect early on Tuesday morning, but the Israeli military says 24 rockets have been fired at Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip since the expected start of the ceasefire. Hamas has controlled the area since 2007, but has recently consolidated power through a unity government with the secular nationalist party Fatah.

"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," Netanyahu said Tuesday.

Hamas's armed wing rejected the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire with Israel on Tuesday, moments after the Israeli Cabinet accepted the plan, throwing into disarray international efforts to end a week of fighting that has killed 192 Palestinians and exposed millions of Israelis to Hamas rocket fire.

The military wing of Hamas, the al-Qassam Brigades, said in a statement on the Hamas website that the proposal "does not deserve the ink it was written with."

"Our battle with the enemy continues and will increase in ferocity and intensity," the statement said.

Similarly in Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the Egyptian proposal was "not acceptable."

But Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official in Cairo, said the movement had made no final decision.

"We are still in consultation and there has been no official position made by the (Hamas) movement regarding the Egyptian proposal," he wrote in a Facebook posting.

Troops amassed on border

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against targets in Gaza in the past week and amassed troops on the border of the coastal strip, but has so far refrained from a ground offensive that could quickly drive up the casualty count on both sides.

The Egyptian ceasefire offer, which was presented late Monday, called for a halt of hostilities as of Tuesday morning, followed by negotiations on easing the closure of Gaza's borders — a closure that has been enforced by both Israel and Egypt to varying degrees since Hamas seized the territory in 2007.

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 quickly broken as violence flared again.

An easing of the blockade 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.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Vienna for negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, decided not to make an immediate trip to the Middle East on Tuesday to push diplomatic efforts toward the Israel-Hamas ceasefire.

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