Israel bombs Gaza, withdraws negotiators from Cairo

Smoke billows following an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City on August 19, 2014. (Photo: AFP – Mahmud Hams)
Published Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Updated 7:21 pm (GMT+3): Israel bombed sites across Gaza on Tuesday and recalled its negotiators from truce talks in Cairo after saying three rockets from the strip hit Israeli occupied territory, hours before a ceasefire was due to expire.
At least five people, including three children, were injured in two attacks, Palestinian heath ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra wrote on Twitter.
Palestinian witnesses and security officials said at least four airstrikes targeted open areas in the northern area of Beit Lahiya, in Maghazi in the center, and in Khan Younis and in Rafah in the south.
A Reuters correspondent also saw an Israeli plane fire a missile east of Gaza City.
Of the five people injured, two children were wounded in a strike east of Rafah in southern Gaza, and three people including one child suffered injuries in the north.
The renewed attacks caused thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in neighborhoods of eastern Gaza City.
An AFP reporter saw hundreds of Palestinians streaming out of al-Shujayeh carrying bags of clothes, pillows and mattresses.
Thousands more were leaving the areas of Zeitoun and Shaaf, alarmed by a series of explosions, and heading towards shelters in UN schools, the witnesses said.
Meanwhile an Israeli official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered the negotiating team to return home.
Nor was there any claim of responsibility for the rockets fired at Beersheva.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of sabotaging indirect talks in Cairo aimed at brokering a longer-term ceasefire.
“We don’t have any information about firing rockets from Gaza. The Israeli raids are intended to abort the negotiations in Cairo,” Abu Zuhri told AFP.
Egyptian mediators, who are generally hostile to the Hamas movement and tend to take their cues from Israel, have been pushing both sides to put an end to a weeks-long Israel terror campaign against Gaza which has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians.
The aim of the talks was to broker a long-term arrangement to halt Israel’s assault, although hostilities had, until Tuesday, largely ended since a series of temporary truces took off on August 4.
Although the truce agreements had brought relief to Gaza’s 1.8 million residents who have been living under a choking Israeli siege since 2007, the drawn-out waiting and the fear of a resumption of attacks was beginning to test people’s patience.
“No one here has any hope,” said Riyad Abul Sultan, a father-of-10 with thick curly hair, smoking as he sits on a flimsy mattress at a UN school in Gaza before the renewed Israeli attacks.
“Maybe they’ll finish the war for two hours, maybe Israel will start bombing again.”
“We want a ceasefire for always, not for three days or for three days,” agreed his wife, Wafa.
“The Israelis are enjoying some quiet. But me, my house is destroyed and I’m living with my husband and my kids in a UN school,” snapped Manal Abu Abed, 40.
“Let them either kill us or let us live with some dignity!”
Gaza’s health ministry said the death toll rose to 2,016 people with 10,196 wounded. Among the dead were 541 children, 250 women and 95 elderly men.
On the Israeli side, at least 64 occupation soldiers and two or three civilians have been killed.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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