Thursday 27 October 2016

20 Killed as Gaza War Resumes After 10-Day Lull

Harinder Mishra/Gaza/Jerusalem

Twenty Palestinians, including the wife and child of the Hamas military chief, were killed today as Israel resumed air strikes on Gaza after a 10-day lull following the collapse of ceasefire talks in Cairo, taking the death toll in the conflict past 2,100.

Israel said about 50 rockets had been fired from Gaza yesterday and another 20 today, although no injuries have been reported.

Among the dead were three women, one of them heavily pregnant, and seven children. They include the woman's unborn baby, whom medics tried but failed to save, medics said.

The violence resumed yesterday when three rockets struck southern Israel with the Israeli air force hitting back with strikes which continued through the night and into today.

The first deadly strike killed Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif's second wife, Widad, 27, and his seven-month-old son Ali.

Rescue workers today also pulled the bodies of a 48-year-old woman and a 14-year-old boy from the rubble, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

Shortly before dawn, an air strike hit a home in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, killing eight, among them the pregnant woman, her unborn baby, three children and three men.

Later in the morning, another child, 4, was killed along with a man in his 20s in a strike on Zeitun in southern Gaza City, Qudra said.

Four other men were killed in three separate strikes, two of whom died when a missile hit their motorcycle in the northern town of Beit Lahiya. At their funeral, both were wrapped in green Hamas flags, indicating they were militants.

Separately, a man died of injuries sustained earlier in the conflict, which erupted on July 8.

The hostilities resumed hours before a temporary ceasefire was due to expire.

Talks in Egypt's capital to end the violence broke up without a deal. Israeli delegates said they would return home.

It was not known whether Deif had survived last night's attack, although Hamas' exiled deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuk was quoted as saying in Cairo that two of the victims were his wife and daughter, the BBC reported.

Deif, accused of ordering suicide bomb attacks in Israel several years ago, has survived a number of assassination attempts, which reportedly left him with severe disabilities.

Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Saar told army radio that he was a "legitimate target" and that if an opportunity arose to eliminate him, it should be taken.

Hamas' armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, said Israel had opened "the gates of hell" and would pay a heavy price.

Israel's security cabinet was due to discuss the renewed violence later today.

This morning, eight people - all believed to be from the same family - were also killed in an Israeli strike in central Gaza, Palestinian medics said.

In all, about 100 people have been wounded since the ceasefire ended, Palestinian officials say.

In Israel, sirens sounded in a number of cities, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The Israeli military said it had shot down a number of missiles fired from Gaza.

Officials say that over 2,030 Palestinians and 66 Israelis have died since Israel began its offensive on Gaza on July 8.

Earlier, Azzam al-Ahmad, the lead Palestinian negotiator and a senior member of the Fatah movement, blamed Israel for the failure to reach a deal in Egypt.

"There was an Israeli decision to make the Cairo talks fail," he said.

However, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said that rocket fire from Gaza had "made continuation of talks impossible" and "destroyed the premise upon which the talks were based".

The US has voiced concern about the renewed hostilities, and blamed Hamas, the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamist group.

The Israeli delegation had walked out of the Cairo meeting just hours before a midnight deadline, leaving the fate of the negotiations in question.

But even before that Azzam al-Ahmad said that there had been "no progress on any point", with big gaps remaining between the two sides.

Israel has been seeking guarantees that Hamas and other factions in Gaza would be disarmed, while the Palestinians were demanding an end to the Israeli and Egyptian blockades of Gaza, and the establishment of a seaport and airport.

Hamas insists it will not give up its weapons, while Israel wants to maintain some control over Gaza's crossings to prevent arms smuggling.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge with the aim of ending rocket fire. It also sought to destroy tunnels dug under the frontier with Israel used by militants to launch attacks.

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