As Casualties Rise, Egypt Urges Israel, Palestinians To Return To Ceasefire
GAZA/CAIRO, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Egypt called on Israel and the Palestinians on
Saturday to halt hostilities and resume peace talks, but both sides kept up
attacks, including an Israeli air strike which destroyed a residential tower
block in the center of Gaza City.
Hamas militants also fired rockets at Israel, hitting the southern city of
Beersheba, where two people were hurt, police said. At least two rockets were
also fired from Lebanon into northern Israel, but it was not initially clear
who fired them, Lebanese and Israeli sources said.
At least five rockets fired from Syria also landed at various locations on the
Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the Israeli army said. All fell in open areas,
causing no injuries or damage. It was not immediately known who fired the
Initial reports said 17 people were wounded in the attack on the 13-story Gaza
building, local health officials said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the building, which collapsed completely,
contained a command center belonging to Hamas militants. Local residents said
it housed 44 families.
Another Israeli strike later destroyed a commercial center in the southern Gaza
town of Rafah and three people were hurt, local medical staff said.
Five Palestinians, including two children, were killed in another Israeli
strike on a house in central Gaza, health officials said. Seven more
Palestinians were killed in other strikes, including one on a car.
The Israeli military said it bombed about 20 targets across the Hamas-ruled
strip, including rocket launchers and weapon caches next to schools.
No Israeli casualties were reported on Saturday, although rockets and mortar
bombs rained down on Israel throughout the day, including one intercepted over
the Tel Aviv area, the military said. At least 570 rockets have been fired at
Israel since a ceasefire collapsed on Tuesday, it added.
Palestinian health officials say 2,083 people, most of them civilians, have
been killed in the small, densely populated coastal enclave since July 8, when
Israel launched an offensive with the declared aim of ending Palestinian rocket
fire into its territory.
Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and four civilians have been killed.
Indirect ceasefire talks mediated by Egypt to end the conflict collapsed after
rockets were fired from Gaza during a truce and Israel responded with air
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Saturday called on both sides to resume talks.
Palestinian President Abbas, in Cairo after meeting President Abdel Fattah
al-Sisi, also urged a swift resumption of negotiations.
A senior Egyptian diplomat said Abbas had informed Sisi that Hamas was prepared
to come to Cairo for further talks, but Hamas did not immediately confirm the
report. Israel also had no immediate comment.
The Egyptian diplomat said Cairo expected to receive responses from both Israel
and Hamas by Monday.
The talks, conducted in Cairo, have not involved direct meetings between
Israeli officials and representatives of Hamas. Israel considers Hamas a
terrorist organization and Hamas, for its part, refuses to recognize Israel.
Egyptian officials shuttle between the two sides.
Hamas has said it will not stop fighting until the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on
Gaza is lifted.
Both Israel and Egypt view Hamas as a security threat and are reluctant to make
sweeping concessions without guarantees weapons will not enter the economically
The Cairo talks had aimed to secure a lasting deal to open the way for
reconstruction aid to flow into the Gaza territory of 1.8 million people, where
thousands of homes have been destroyed.
"My main goal is for the truce talks to resume in Egypt as soon as
possible to avoid more casualties," Abbas said in Cairo.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the movement was "in favor of any real
effort that will secure the achievement of Palestinian demands and we will
study any proposal when presented."
Saturday's violence took place a day after a four-year-old Israeli boy was
killed by a mortar attack from Gaza, leading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
to threaten to escalate the fight against Hamas. The boy was the first Israeli
child to have died in the conflict.
The United Nations says about 400,000 Gazans have been displaced and more than
400 children killed in the longest and deadliest violence between Israel and
the Palestinians since the second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, a decade
Israel pulled ground forces out of Gaza more than two weeks ago, after saying
they had destroyed a network of Hamas tunnels used for cross-border ambushes.
But Netanyahu last week granted provisional approval for the call-up of 10,000
army reservists, signaling the possibility of heightened military action.
Hamas leaders said on Saturday they had signed off on Abbas' bid to join the International
Criminal Court (ICC), a move that could open both Israel and the militant group
to war crime probes over the Gaza conflict. [ID: L5N0QT066]
If the Palestinians were to sign the ICC's founding treaty, the Rome Statute,
the court would have jurisdiction over crimes committed in the Palestinian
territories. An investigation could then examine events as far back as
Israel and Hamas have traded accusations of war crimes and both defend their
military operations as consistent with international law. (Additional reporting
by Maayan Lubell and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem and Sylvia Westall in Beirut,
Writing by Maayan Lubell and Ori Lewis,; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Dan
rose into the sky after two Israeli missiles toppled the Zafer Tower, one in a
group of several high-rises in the upscale Tel al-Hawa neighborhood.
Neighboring buildings shook from the blasts.
The Israeli military said the missiles targeted a Hamas operations room in
the building, but did not explain why the entire tower with 44 apartments was
Gaza police said a warning missile had been fired five minutes earlier and that
some residents were able to rush out of the building in time. Still, 22 people
were wounded, including 11 children and five women, according to Gaza hospital
Maher Abu Sedo, an area resident, said the two strikes came within seconds
of each other.
"People started shouting Allahu Akbar, and women and kids were
screaming," he said. "This is crazy. The state of Israel has resorted
to madness. In less than a minute, 44 families have become displaced ... They
lost everything, their house, their money, their memories and their
Some 100,000 Gazans have become homeless, with more than 17,000 homes
destroyed or damaged beyond repair, according to U.N. figures. However,
Saturday strike marked the first time an entire apartment high-rise was
Elsewhere in Gaza, an airstrike on a car killed a man and wounded 11 people,
said Ayman Sahabani, head of the emergency room at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine later identified the man
killed as a field commander.
Meanwhile, Gaza militants fired over 100 rockets and mortar shells at Israel
on Saturday. The barrage came a day after a mortar shell from Gaza hit a
farming village in southern Israel, killing a 4-year-old boy.
Israeli media said large numbers of residents of southern Israeli
communities near the Gaza border were leaving their homes and heading for safer
areas following the death of the boy in Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
"I say whoever can leave, whose presence is not crucial should
leave," said Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Ahronovich during a visit
to the south on Saturday.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon called on southern residents to be ready for a
prolonged campaign against Hamas militants.
"In the end we will win," he said Saturday. "This is a test
of staying power and strength."
Since the fighting erupted on July 8, Israel has launched some 5,000
airstrikes at Gaza, while Gaza militants have fired close to 4,000 rockets and
mortars, according to the Israeli military.
More than 2,100 Palestinians, including close to 500 children, have been
killed, according to Palestinian health officials and U.N. figures. Israel has
lost 64 soldiers and four civilians.
Israel says it is targeting sites linked to militants, including rocket
launchers, command centers and weapons depots. The U.N. says about three-fourth
of the Palestinians killed have been civilians.
A formula for ending the war remains elusive.
Hamas demands that Israel and Egypt lift a Gaza border blockade they imposed
in 2007, after Hamas seized the territory from Western-backed Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel says it can ease, but not remove the stifling restrictions on
Palestinian trade and travel unless Gaza militants agree to disarm and stop
manufacturing or smuggling weapons. Hamas has rejected that demand.
During stop-and-go truce talks, Egypt has presented compromise proposals,
including a gradual easing of movement for people and cargo at two crossings
between Israel and Gaza. However, Israel offered no specific commitments, and
Hamas rejected the idea.
Abbas has urged Hamas to accept the plan, which would also give him a new
foothold in Gaza because forces under his command would be deployed at the
Abbas met Saturday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo to
try to find ways to resume truce talks. After the meeting, the Egyptian Foreign
Ministry urged Israel and Hamas to agree to an open-ended cease-fire and resume
indirect talks. Egyptian officials did not say how they expected renewed talks
to produce a different outcome after repeated failures.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the collapse of
the most recent cease-fire. In a phone conversation with U.N. Secretary General
Ban Ki Moon, Netanyahu alleged that Hamas has violated 11 cease-fires since the
war started, Netanyahu's office said.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev had no immediate comment regarding
the renewed call for a cease-fire. Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Gaza's
ruling Hamas, said the group would consider the Egyptian appeal, but there was no
sign it would budge from longstanding demands.
Earlier Saturday, Hamas announced that it has signed a pledge to back any
Palestinian bid to join the International Criminal Court. Such a bid could
expose Israel, as well as Hamas, to possible war crimes prosecution.
Hamas had hesitated for weeks before giving its written consent. Its
decision could further increase domestic pressure on Abbas to turn to the
Abbas has debated the issue for months, since seeking ICC action could
transform his relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile, strain his
ties with the United States and deprive his government of badly needed Western
Last month, Abbas said he would not make a move without the written consent
of all Palestinian factions. He obtained such support from all groups
represented in the Palestine Liberation Organization, while Hamas, not a PLO
member, said it would study the idea.
It remains unclear if Abbas will turn to the court, now that he has Hamas
support in writing. An Abbas aide said last week that no decision would be made
before March when a U.N. commission of inquiry into possible war crimes
committed in the Gaza war is to hand in its findings.
Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza
Strip and Sarah El Deeb in Cairo contributed to this report.
by ICC in the name of negotiation and ceasefire. It is nothing but wasting
time. This time the assassin terrorist Netanyahu must be dragged to the dock
for trail then to the custody for life or death by hanging, for the heinous
crime this bastard committed against humanity on the strength of his fathers in
Egypt is calling Palestinians and Israel for discussion because it is working
as a pimp being an accused of committal
of genocide and trying to help Israel in lieu of billions of $ and assurance of
helping it to avert going to the dock for trial by ICC.
Since Hamas has agreed to face the investigation by Human Rights commission
what the delay. Abbass must take immediate action to get the justice done by
ICC to the killing of thousands of innocent Palestinians and people of Gaza.
Going to ICC, ceasefire would be automatic., and the entire picture would
change there would be no need to the pimp country that too is an abettor like Israel
by closing the communication to the outside world.
These Zionist sons of Nazi, sets up the whites in lieu of huge kick backs to
kill blacks with the motive to destabilizing the political harmony between
whites and blacks. Thus creating a chaotic situation with the intent to turn situation
fit for blood spilling rioting, whereby accomplish the Zionists evil mission. To
separating the blacks and whites forever and enjoy ruling the country with the
whites and blacks as the Zionist’s permanent servants.