Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israel on Tuesday after it agreed to an Egyptian proposal to end the week-old Gaza conflict, and a Hamas leader said the Islamist group was still undecided on whether to accept the ceasefire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hamas that Israel will intensify its week-long campaign against Gaza militants if Hamas rejects the ceasefire.
Under the terms of the blueprint announced by Egypt – whose military-backed government has been at odds with Hamas – a mutual “de-escalation” of fighting was to begin at 9 a.m. local time, with hostilities ceasing within 12 hours. But the Israeli military says 24 rockets have been fired at Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip since the ceasefire’s expected start.
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.”
ISRAEL: MORE ROCKET ATTACKS DEFLECTED
Rocket salvoes were fired at Israel after 9 a.m. and live television showed the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepting several projectiles over the port city of Ashdod, where a factory was hit. Emergency services said no one was hurt.
Sirens sounded in other parts of southern Israel after what Channel Two television reported had been volleys of at least 10 rockets.
In overnight attacks, Israel said it had bombed 25 sites in Gaza. Palestinian medical officials said a 63-year-old man and a 52-year-old woman were killed.
Hundreds of rocket attacks on Israel have caused no fatalities, largely due to Iron Dome. But the strikes have disrupted life across the country and sent people rushing into shelters.
PALESTINIANS: HAMAS UNDECIDED ON CEASEFIRE
Hamas’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, rejected the reported text of the deal announced by Egypt, Gaza’s neighbour, saying: “Our battle with the enemy continues and will increase in ferocity and intensity.” But Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official who was in Cairo, said the movement had made no final decision.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said earlier on Tuesday that the Islamist group had not received an official ceasefire proposal, and he repeated its position that demands it has made must be met before it lays down its weapons.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who reached an agreement with Hamas in April that led to the formation of a unity government last month, urged acceptance of the proposal, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.
At Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet approved the Egyptian offer, an official statement said. Political sources said the vote in the forum was 6-2.
CEASEFIRE: WHAT ARE THE KEY ISSUES?
- Peace talks: Under the ceasefire proposal announced by Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, high-level delegations from Israel and the Palestinian factions would hold separate talks in Cairo within 48 hours to consolidate the ceasefire with “confidence-building measures.”
- Blockades and borders: Hamas leaders have said a ceasefire must include an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza and a recommitment to a truce reached in an eight-day war there in 2012. Hamas also wants Egypt to ease restrictions at its Rafah crossing with Gaza imposed after the military toppled Islamist president Mohammed Morsi last July. The Egyptian proposal made no mention of Rafah or when restrictions might be eased.
- Detained activists: Hamas has said it also wants the release of hundreds of its activists arrested in the West Bank while Israel searched for three missing teens whose deaths, and the subsequent revenge killing of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem, triggered the current conflict. The detainees include more than 50 Hamas men freed from Israeli jails in a 2011 prisoner exchange. The proposed truce made no mention of the detainees in stipulating that “other issues, including security issues, shall be discussed with the sides.”
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