TIME Middle East

Israel and Palestinians Reach Open-Ended Cease-Fire Deal

The sign of victory as people gather in the streets to celebrate after a deal had been reached between Hamas and Israel over a long-term end to seven weeks of fighting in the Gaza Strip on Aug. 26, 2014 in Gaza City.
Palestinians in Gaza City celebrate in the streets after a deal had been reached between Hamas and Israel over a long-term end to seven weeks of fighting in the Gaza Strip on Aug. 26, 2014 Momen Faiz—NurPhoto/Corbis

Truce ends the seven-week war, but it's an open question whether longer-term political talks will resume

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced Tuesday that Israel and various Palestinian militant factions including Hamas and Islamic Jihad had reached a cease-fire deal to end seven weeks of devastating war, and to postpone negotiations over several remaining issues for one month.

The news follows weeks of intense efforts on the part of the Egyptian government to broker a truce between the sides, both of whom were keen to emerge looking victorious, or at least successful, from a bruising war that resulted in the death of nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 70 Israelis.

Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev told the BBC that the cease-fire would meet Israel’s primary goals of keeping its citizens safe. The deal, he said, “commits Hamas to ending all hostile activity against Israel from Gaza. Now if that in fact does happen, and we hope it does, that is, for us, victory.”

Abbas’ role in announcing the deal from his Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank was evidence of the more prominent role that Egyptian, Israeli and other officials have sought in Gaza for the Palestinian President, whose Fatah party and security forces were ousted from the coastal strip in a Hamas coup in 2007.

In an evening speech making the deal official, Abbas said that he would soon present a detailed plan aimed at establishing a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, a reference to Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories Israel occupied in the Six-Day War. He also indicated that he would not return to another round of negotiations with Israel amid what seems like such a discouraging prognosis for progress; the last round of talks ended in failure in April.

“The question now is, What’s next?” Abbas said. “Gaza suffered three wars and are we expecting another one? We will consult friends and the international community, and we can’t continue with cloudy negotiations.”

What’s in the Deal
The deal calls for an “open-ended” cease-fire and an Israeli agreement to ease its strict closure policy on Gaza, which Palestinians consider a siege. In theory, this means Israel should ease access at five crossings into Gaza that it controls, opening them up for a better flow of commercial goods and humanitarian needs, and most importantly, for building materials at the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

This latter aspect, according to a Palestinian source close to Hamas, has held up a deal in recent weeks as Hamas thought it necessary to hold out for the free flow of materials such as cement and steel as part of the reconstruction of Gaza. Also included in the deal is an Israeli agreement to allow Gazan fisherman to fish in waters up to 12 nautical miles off the coast by the end of the year — more than doubling the distance they were able to travel offshore in recent years, leading to overfishing.

What Hamas did not get, but had demanded throughout the past month, are three other things that the sides have agreed to postpone discussing for one month. These include the creation of a Gaza seaport, an airport and the release of approximately 50 Hamas activists who were rearrested by Israel in June. After having let them go in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in October 2011, Israeli forces arrested them in West Bank raids following the kidnap-murder of three Israeli teenagers in mid-June. A senior Hamas official last week took responsibility for that attack.

Also postponed for a month is the demand by Hamas for Egypt to open the border crossing at Rafah. Egypt said it would work that out in a separate, bilateral agreement, with sources suggesting that that Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi wanted to take a wait-and-see approach before agreeing to ease Egypt’s own closure of the Hamas-run territory. Abbas’ Palestinian Authority forces are expected to take over responsibility for administering Gaza’s borders from Hamas, Reuters reports.

The agreement seems to lack exact details as to what precisely it would mean for Israel to “ease” its blockade of Gaza, leaving room for disagreements as in past years. Moreover, the deal largely mirrored the November 2012 cease-fire agreement that ended a week of war known as Operation Pillar of Defense. Exactly how “open-ended” this cease-fire ends up being thus remains to be seen.

Hamas Declares Victory
Hamas proclaimed itself victorious on Tuesday night, as details of the deal leaked out. Gazans gathered in several places throughout the strip and shot celebratory gunfire into the air.

“We are here today to declare the victory of the resistance, the victory of Gaza, with the help of God, and the steadfastness of our people and the noble resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said at a news conference at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital.

The deal fulfilled what the Palestinian group had hoped for during the weeks of negotiations, said Gershon Baskin, an Israeli academic who has acted as a go-between Israel and Hamas on several occasions, including in the lead-up to the Shalit prisoner exchange deal almost three years ago. “Hamas has been ready for an agreement for two weeks, and has made it clear its achievements would not be military but political. What was important to them was to get building materials into Gaza,” he said.

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of the Hamas political wing who has not been seen in public in some time, was one of several top Hamas officials to speak to the crowd of thousands gathered in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood Tuesday.

“We’re going to build our port and our airport, and if they attack the port, they attack the port. But anyone who attacks the airport will have their airport attacked again,” al-Zahar said, according to an Agence France-Presse report, in a reference to the numerous rockets launched at Israel’s Ben Gurion International airport. Though none of these succeeded, a Hamas rocket that targeted a town near the airstrip caused the Federal Aviation Administration to suspend the landing of several U.S. airlines there for several days in July.

Netanyahu Faces Hard Sell
Israel seems less in the mood for celebrating. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who informed his cabinet of the cease-fire deal Tuesday evening, has a more complicated job of selling the war’s achievements to Israelis. While the vast majority of Israelis believed he was justified in going to war, according to polls, not all of them are ready to end Operation Protective Edge with Hamas seemingly undeterred — and many are fearful that a cease-fire is simply a time-out until the next round. Whereas 82% of Israelis supported Netanyahu in mid-July, when he first sent in ground troops, a new poll showed his approval rating sunk to 32%.

Three of Netanyahu’s most prominent right-wing coalition partners — Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovich — announced their opposition to the cease-fire deal. The heads of local councils in southern Israel also announced Tuesday night that they flatly rejected the cease-fire agreement.

Itamar Shimoni, the mayor of Ashkelon, one of the cities hardest hit by the rocket fire, called the deal a “surrender to terrorism” and added: “We wanted to see Hamas defeated and begging for its life, but instead we’re seeing Israel running to the negotiation table every opportunity that presents itself.”

The upper echelons of Netanyahu’s team and senior Israel Defense Forces officials, however, will present it much differently. “The Israeli spin will be that Hamas shot most of their rockets and that won’t easily be replenished, and that most of the tunnels were destroyed and can’t be rebuilt,” Baskin tells TIME. “The big question is whether the regional political process will restart, as it should.”

TIME als ice bucket challenge

I Figured Out Why I Hate the Ice Bucket Challenge

Two women get doused during the ice bucket challenge at Boston's Copley Square on Aug. 7, 2014.
Two women get doused during the ice bucket challenge at Boston's Copley Square on Aug. 7, 2014. Elise Amendola—AP

I shudder to think what Americans look like dumping freezing cold water over our heads while so much of the world is plunged into acute suffering, and I can tell you exactly why

With much gratitude, somehow my weekend Facebook thread was remarkably free of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos. A friend with whom I spent the weekend was not so lucky. Every time she looked at Facebook she exclaimed “Another one! Another one. Oh my God. Sheryl Sandberg! Oh my God! Bill Gates! Russell Crowe! Justin Timberlake!” I actually watched Justin Timberlake’s, not because I am obsessed with Justin Timberlake, but because I found him somehow the most surprising. But he really took to ice water, well, I guess the way a duck takes to regular water.

But my friend and I found ourselves ultimately irritated by the ALS challenge, which has shown no signs of fading. We wondered why. How could we object to an organization raising $80 million dollars to help combat a terrible disease? Charitable fundraising is not a frivolous pursuit. Plus, I myself had done many only-charitable-to-myself frivolous things this weekend. I flew in an airplane. I ate food out of takeout containers. I swam in a lovely pool.

Still exploring our irritation, my friend and I watched one particular video of a woman standing in front of her Malibu beach house, screaming as the icy water fell on her head. I’d seen and heard other ALS Ice Bucketeers scream, but this one was particularly bloodcurdling. In that scream, I knew why the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge rubbed me the wrong way.

At any given time, many people on the planet are enduring war and famine and violence. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that in the last few weeks the news been especially awful. Around 2,000 Palestinians and 66 Israelis have died in Gaza since that conflict flared up. In our very own country, a police officer shot an unarmed 18-year-old boy, six times. This morning, Sudanese rebels shot down a U.N. helicopter.

And here we are in America dumping ice water on our heads, which, I insist, is more than just harmless fun for a good cause. It is disrespectful to the literally millions of people in the world who are, as I type and you read, in actual physical pain. To then post that experience in public forum is essentially kind of a subtle form of bragging. “My life is so without trauma that I find creating moments of trauma exhilarating, and hilarious.” The fact that there are hundreds of thousands of Americans creating and sharing these videos suggests that we as a nation are making the same boast.

Do I think everyone who did the ALS challenge is a terrible person? Of course not. Do I think that there’s another way that ALS could have raised all that money so fast? Unlikely. It’s certainly better for the ALS Association and the approximately 30,000 Americans who have ALS that this happened. That said, I shudder to think about what we look like dumping freezing cold water over our heads while so much of the world at this time is plunged into acute suffering over which they have no control. Not to mention the fact that we are also in the middle of an historic drought, and most of the challenge water is from the tap, not the toilet or another used source (an exception being Matt Damon, who rightly called dumping clean water on his head “a little crazy”).

Imagine being a suffering person in the world, watching Americans spend the weekend dumping water on their heads as a quixotic impetus to give—or to avoid giving? Which is it?—money. In Gaza, having bombs drop all around you and sharing the one remaining jug of water left in your kitchen with four other people. In Ferguson, Missouri.

I am not saying that Americans should have spent their weekends in hair shirts, flagellating themselves. But if we’re going to be excited about having this connected world, we need to act like citizens of that world and try to be aware that there are other people living in it, whose experience is absolutely nothing like ours. And with that realization, it might be nice to just quietly, without screaming or wasting, send someone who has less than you, someone who suffers more, a check. Just because.

 

Sarah Miller also writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

TIME Israel

Hopes for a Cease-Fire Rise as the Gaza War Drags On

A Palestinian walks on the rubble of a mosque that was partially damaged by an airstrike on Aug. 25, 2014 in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.
A Palestinian walks on the rubble of a mosque that was partially damaged by an air strike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on Aug. 25, 2014 Roberto Schmidt—AFP/Getty Images

The Gaza war has reached its eighth week, and people on both sides keep dying. But there are reports of a potential truce

Israeli and Palestinian media outlets were abuzz with reports Monday that the various factions involved in the Israel-Hamas conflict were close to agreeing on a cease-fire deal following renewed efforts by Egypt and Saudi Arabia to help negotiate a truce. Either way, the possibility of reaching a cease-fire with a longer shelf life seemed to increase the likelihood of the sides reaching a cease-fire that would also be the prelude to a return to peace talks.

Khaled al-Batsh, an Islamic Jihad official attending the Cairo talks, was the source of reports that on the possible cease-fire. But a senior Hamas official, Izzat al-Rishq, said the sides had yet to agree on a cease-fire in Gaza, according to Israeli daily Haaretz, while another Lebanon-based Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, would only confirm in a Hamas radio interview that “efforts are under way to stop the Israeli aggression.” Late Sunday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling on Israel and Palestinian factions to agree to a cease-fire without a time limit attached and to return to the peace negotiations.

A senior Israeli official reached by TIME says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office is declining to comment on the rumors of a possible cease-fire and suggests “exercising caution” in giving credence to the reports. A report on Israel’s Walla! news site suggested that Egypt would make an announcement on a deal late Monday, one that would include a reopening the Rafah crossing between southern Gaza and Egypt and the expansion of Gaza’s fishing zone to 12 nautical miles, two of Hamas’ demands. If the cease-fire is maintained, the report says, Israel will allow more commercial products into Gaza, including construction materials.

Still, Israel and Hamas have very different visions about how the conflict should end — which makes it challenging to reach an agreement satisfactory to all sides. “The dilemma is that Israel is not willing to talk before reaching a cease-fire, while there is still shooting going on, and the Palestinian factions insist that they want achievements in exchange for agreeing to a cease-fire,” says Ghassan Khatib, a veteran Palestinian political analyst and the vice president of Birzeit University in the West Bank.

Adding intrigue about what the week may hold, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview Saturday with the Egypt’s Sada El Balad station that in the coming days he would introduce his own plan for solving the greater Israel-Palestine conflict. Many analysts here have speculated that this will likely be built on the Arab Peace Initiative — also called the Saudi Peace Initiative — first put forward in 2002. In the plan, moderate Arab states would recognize Israel in return for Israel recognizing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Any such plan would, naturally, including a program for rebuilding Gaza, but Israel is concerned that materials like cement and steel will be used refresh Hamas’ military capabilities — including the tunnels that became the focus of the Israel Defense Forces’ recent Gaza invasion.

Abbas said he would be discussing the initiative this week with other top Palestinian officials in Ramallah. “It will be an unconventional solution, but I’m not going to declare war on Israel,” Abbas said in the interview. “I have diplomatic and political solutions.” He suggested that he doesn’t expect Washington to support his initiative but added that “in the end, our Arab brothers will go with us.”

Khatib believes that Abbas’s statement indicates that Saudi involvement would play a key role in a peace deal. “Saudi and international parties are trying to bridge the gap by giving guarantees, meaning that they would set up a mechanism by which a third-party will guarantee freedom of movement to and from Gaza, but check that this cannot be used for the rearming of Gaza.” Egypt, he says, would like to play this role — or at least a pivotal one. The three key European players — France, Germany and Britain — all are offering assistance as well. The three countries are reportedly working on a proposal for a U.N. resolution to end the fighting, according to a report leaked to Haaretz, as part of a plan to return Gaza to Palestinian Authority control under international supervision — the territory has been run by Hamas since June 2007 — end the Israeli embargo on Gaza and resume peace talks.

The alternative, it seems, is continued war. Each side has made it clear other over the past week than they are ready to keep fighting indefinitely. With the conflict between Israel and Hamas already dragging on far longer than expected — it is now heading into its eighth week — politicians on both sides in the conflict have begun to refer to the possibility of war of attrition. That’s a reference to the ongoing fighting following the 1967 Six-Day War, one that continued for another three years, pitting Israel against Egyptian, Jordanian, Palestinian and even Soviet forces. Netanyahu and his Defense Minister told Israelis on Aug. 24 to expect a protracted war and “if necessary,” a delay of the start of the school year next week, at least for schools that are in the line of fire from Gaza.

In the meantime, both sides have continued their attacks. Israel has carried out 70 air strikes in the Gaza Strip over the past two days, the IDF said in its Twitter feed, while over the same period Israel was targeted by more than 230 rockets and mortars from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant factions in Gaza. On Sunday a 4-year-old Israeli boy was laid to rest after he was killed in a mortar attack from Gaza on Friday, triggering an exodus of Israelis from communities near the Gaza border, which are not protected by the country’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. The boy’s death brought the number of Israelis killed in the ongoing war to 68, including 64 soldiers. That same day a Palestinian mother and her four children were killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza. At least 2,120 Gazans have been killed in the conflict, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Barring a lasting cease-fire, both numbers will keep rising.

TIME Israel

Israeli Airstrike Collapses Gaza Apartment Tower

Mideast Israel Palestinians
Palestinians inspect the rubble of the collapsed al-Zafer apartment tower following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Aug. 23, 2014. Adel Hana—AP

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel bombed an apartment tower in downtown Gaza City on Saturday, collapsing the 12-story building in an unprecedented strike, while Hamas kept up heavy rocket fire that sent more Israelis fleeing border areas close to Gaza.

The violence signaled that a speedy resumption of truce talks is unlikely, despite another appeal by mediator Egypt. Gaps between Israel and Hamas on a border deal for blockaded Gaza remain vast, and repeated rounds of talks have ended in failure.

In the Gaza City strike, a huge fireball followed by a black column of smoke 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 brought down.

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 officials.

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 security.”

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 destroyed.

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 border crossings.

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 court.

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 financial support.

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.

 

TIME Gaza

Gaza Militants Kill 18 Alleged Spies for Israel

Hamas militants grab Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel in Gaza City
Hamas militants grab Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel, before executing them in Gaza City, Aug. 22, 2014. Reuters

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Gaza gunmen killed 18 alleged spies for Israel on Friday, including seven who were lined up behind a mosque and shot after midday prayers, in response to Israel’s deadly airstrikes against top Hamas leaders.

Two of those killed were women, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which called for an immediate halt to what it said were “extra-judicial executions.”

Hamas media portrayed the killings as the beginning of a new crackdown, under the rallying cry of “choking the necks of the collaborators.”

The Al Majd website, which is close to the Hamas security services, said suspects would now be dealt with “in the field” rather than in the courts in order to create deterrence.

The Hamas-run Al Rai said the same punishment would soon be imposed on others.

The killings came a day after an Israeli airstrike on a house in southern Gaza killed three senior military leaders of Hamas.

Earlier in the week, another strike killed the wife and two children of Mohammed Deif, who is in charge of the Hamas military wing. Deif’s fate remains unclear.

Friday’s events began with the shooting of 11 alleged informants at the Gaza City police headquarters in the morning. Of the 11, two were women, the Palestinian rights center said.

Later in the day, seven men were killed outside the city’s downtown al-Omari mosque as worshippers were wrapping up noon prayers. Several dozen people were near the mosque at the time, said one of the witnesses, 42-year-old Ayman Sharif.

Sharif said masked gunmen lined up seven people against a wall. A piece of paper was affixed above the head of each of them, with his initials and his alleged crime.

Sharif quoted one of the gunmen as saying the seven “had sold their souls to the enemy for a cheap price” and had caused killing and destruction.

The commander of the group then gave the order to the others to open fire form their automatic rifles. He said the bodies were collected by an ambulance and the gunmen left.

TIME Israel-Gaza conflict

Israeli Air Strike Kills 3 Senior Hamas Leaders

Mideast Israel Palestinians
Smoke and dust rise after an Israeli strike hit Gaza City on Aug. 20, 2014 Adel Hana—AP

Israel says the air strikes are in response to a resumption of Hamas rocket fire that on Tuesday scuttled a six-day cease-fire

(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) — An Israeli airstrike in Gaza killed three senior leaders of the Hamas military wing on Thursday, the militant group said, in what is likely to be a major blow to the organization’s morale and a significant scoop for Israeli intelligence.

The strike near Rafah, a town in the southern part of the coastal territory, was one of 20 the Israeli military said it carried out after midnight on Wednesday.

In a text message sent to media, Hamas said three of its senior military leaders — Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, Mohammed Barhoum and Raed al-Attar — were killed, along with three other people.

Gaza police and medical officials said scores more people remained under the rubble of a four-story structure destroyed in the airstrike.

The three Hamas leaders are considered to be at the senior levels of its military leadership and were involved in a number of high profile attacks on Israeli targets.

The Israeli security agency Shin Bet confirmed the deaths of Shamaleh and al-Attar in an email, but did not mention Barhoum.

The strikes followed the breakdown of Egyptian-mediated talks in Cairo aimed at producing a long-term truce and a future roadmap for Gaza after more than a month of fighting between Israel and Hamas-led Islamic militants.

The Gaza war has so far killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Israel has lost 67 people, all but three of them soldiers.

Palestinian health official Ashraf Al-Kidra put the number of those missing at the site of eh Rafah airstrikein the “dozens.”

Elsewhere, another Israeli airstrike killed a 27-year-old man in central Gaza identified as Jomma Anwar Mayar, police said. Israel also hit at smuggling tunnels along the Gaza border with Egypt and at agricultural lands west of Rafah in the latest airstrikes.

Israel says the airstrikes are in response to a resumption of Hamas rocket fire that on Tuesday scuttled a six-day cease-fire. The military says that only one rocket launch was registered since midnight, compared to more than 210 over the previous 30 hours.

On Wednesday, in the most spectacular Israeli strike since the cease-fire was breached, Hamas’ shadowy military chief, Mohammed Deifm, was the object of an apparent assassination attempt that killed his wife and infant son.

After remaining quiet for most of the day Wednesday, Hamas officials announced that Deif was not in the targeted home at the time and was still alive. Deif has survived multiple assassination attempts, lives in hiding and is believed to be paralyzed from previous attempts on his life.

In a nationally televised address Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed little willingness to return to the negotiating table after six weeks of war with Hamas.

“We are determined to continue the campaign with all means and as is needed,” he said, his defense minister by his side. “We will not stop until we guarantee full security and quiet for the residents of the south and all citizens of Israel.”

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed “deep regret” over the breaking of the cease-fire. It said in a statement Wednesday that it “continues bilateral contacts” with both sides aimed at restoring calm and securing a lasting truce that “serves the interest of the Palestinian people, especially in relation to the opening of the crossings and reconstruction.”

An Egyptian compromise proposal calls for easing the Gaza blockade but not lifting it altogether or opening the territory’s air and seaports, as Hamas has demanded.

While the plan does not require Hamas to give up its weapons, it would give Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces were ousted by Hamas, a foothold back in Gaza running border crossings and overseeing internationally backed reconstruction.

The Gaza blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people, restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent Hamas and other militant groups from getting weapons. Critics say the measures amount to collective punishment.

TIME Israel

Israeli Premier: ‘We Will Not Stop’ Gaza Operation

Smoke and fire after an Israeli air strikes over Gaza City, on 20 August 2014.
Smoke and fire after an Israeli air strikes over Gaza City, on 20 August 2014. Sameh Rahmi—NurPhoto/Corbis

(JERUSALEM) — Israel’s prime minister says he will press forward with a military operation in the Gaza Strip until rocket fire out of the Palestinian territory is halted.

Benjamin Netanyahu made the comments in a nationwide address Wednesday, a day after talks aimed at ending Israel’s monthlong war against Hamas militants collapsed in failure.

Netayahu’s tough words signal a protracted period of fighting could lie ahead.

Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets into Israel on Wednesday, while Israel carried out numerous airstrikes in Gaza. Palestinian officials say at least 20 Palestinians have been killed since the cease-fire talks collapsed.

TIME Middle East

Hopes of Prolonged Truce Dashed as Gaza Conflict Reignites

Smoke rises as Palestinians stand atop the rubble of a house, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip
Palestinians stand atop the rubble of a house, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on August 20, 2014. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa — Reuters

Talks in Cairo collapse after rockets are fired from Gaza into Israel

Fighting in Gaza continued into the early hours of Wednesday morning after talks between Israel and Hamas over a cease-fire collapsed in Cairo.

The negotiations in the Egyptian capital came to an abrupt end after three rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel eight hours before the latest truce was set to expire. Hamas denied launching the initial barrage of artillery on Tuesday night, but later claimed responsibility for rockets fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Israel responded to the salvos with renewed airstrikes into the Gaza Strip and pulled its negotiation team from Cairo, where it had been engaged in talks with Palestinian representatives over the establishment of a prolonged truce.

“The Cairo process was built on a total and complete cessation of all hostilities and so when rockets were fired from Gaza, not only was it a clear violation of the cease-fire but it also destroyed the premise upon which the talks were based,” Mark Regev, the spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Reuters.

The Palestinian team was also set to depart Egypt, reported Haaretz.

On Wednesday, Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Peter Lerner accused Hamas of firing 70 rockets into Israel since Tuesday. No Israeli causalities have been reported since the hostilities reignited. Israeli officials went on to label Hamas’s actions as a “grave and direct violation” of the truce.

“This is the eleventh cease-fire that Hamas has either rejected or violated,” tweeted Regev.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported that Hamas accused the Israelis of attempting to “assassinate” one of the group’s top military commanders, Mohammed Deif, during an air raid in Gaza City that reportedly killed his wife and child. There has been no confirmation whether Deif was also killed during the strike.

Following ten days of relative calm in the battle-fatigued strip, where more 380,000 people are displaced, Hamas and Israel remain at loggerheads, with both parties continuing to make demands that neither side appears willing to accept.

“On the Israeli side, you have a demand that is not going to be implemented under any circumstance — and that’s the disarmament of Hamas,” Nathan Thrall, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program, tells TIME.

“And on the Hamas side you have a demand that is not going to be implemented under any circumstances and that’s a full lifting of the what Hamas calls the blockade or siege of Gaza.”

Approximately 2,000 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis have been killed in the month-long war between Hamas and Israel. However, analysts suggest that the worst fighting may, at least for the time being, have passed.

“I think that there is a real sense of exhaustion with this conflict on all sides,” says Thrall. “The most likely scenario is that the most violent period of this conflict is behind us, but no one can predict for sure.”

TIME Gaza

Egyptian Cease-Fire Efforts Collapse

Mideast Israel Palestinians
Smoke and debris rise after an Israeli strike hit Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Adel Hana—AP

(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) — Egyptian attempts to broker an end to a monthlong war between Israel and Hamas militants collapsed in heavy fighting Tuesday, with Palestinian militants firing dozens of rockets and Israel responding with airstrikes across the Gaza Strip. At least two Palestinians were killed.

The burst of violence erupted in the hours before a temporary truce was set to expire. It left the Egyptian mediation efforts in tatters, and raised the likelihood of a new round of violence.

Israel withdrew its delegation from the Cairo cease-fire talks following a sudden burst of rocket fire on Tuesday afternoon, and quickly resumed its campaign of airstrikes.

Palestinian officials reported Israeli airstrikes throughout Gaza that gained intensity throughout the evening.

Palestinian medical official Ashraf al-Kidra said two people — a 40-year-old woman and a 2-year-old girl — were killed in an airstrike in Gaza City. A total of 21 people were wounded in a separate airstrike that hit a building that houses offices of Hamas’ Al Aqsa TV station, he said.

The fatalities were the first since a temporary truce was reached last Wednesday.

Israeli officials reported at least 20 rockets fired late Tuesday, including one that set off air raid sirens in the metropolis of Tel Aviv. There were no reports of injuries.

Israel’s civil defense authority, the Home Front Command, ordered authorities to reopen public bomb shelters within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of Gaza.

In announcing the withdrawal of the Israeli team, government spokesman Mark Regev said the rocket fire violated the terms of the negotiations.

“The Cairo talks were based on an agreed premise of a total cessation of hostilities,” he said. “When Hamas breaks the cease-fire, they also break the premise for the Cairo talks. Accordingly, the Israeli team has been called back as a result of today’s rocket fire.”

He would not say whether the team would return to Cairo, or whether Israel would resume cease-fire talks.

Egyptian security officials said Egypt was still pressing the two sides to agree on a cease-fire. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The breakdown dealt a tough blow to nearly a week of Egyptian-led diplomacy meant to end the heaviest fighting between Israel and Hamas since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007.

More than 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials, and tens of thousands of people are homeless. Israel has claimed the number of militants killed was much higher, and it blames Hamas for causing civilian casualties by staging attacks from residential areas. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians and a guest worker have also been killed.

Hamas is seeking an end to a seven-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has ravaged Gaza’s economy, while Israel wants guarantees that Hamas will disarm.

In nearly a week of indirect talks, Egypt appears to have made little headway in resolving the differences. Late Monday, it secured a 24-hour extension to a temporary truce to allow more time for a last-ditch attempt to reach a longer-term deal.

An Egyptian compromise proposal calls for easing the blockade, but not lifting it altogether and opening the territory’s air and seaports as Hamas has demanded.

While the plan does not require Hamas to give up its weapons, it would give Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces were ousted by Hamas in 2007, a foothold back in Gaza running border crossings and overseeing internationally-backed reconstruction. Abbas’ presence would minimize friction with Israel and allow large amounts of international aid to flow into Gaza for reconstruction.

In Cairo, members of the Palestinian delegation, which is comprised of various factions, said no progress had been made in Tuesday’s talks. Yet some held out hope that the Egyptians would still succeed.

“Israel insisted during the talks on disarming the factions in Gaza, and that created huge difficulties during the talks,” said Kais Abdelkarim, a Palestinian negotiator.

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Azzam al-Ahmad, said the Palestinians had submitted a final proposal in hopes of reaching a breakthrough. “We gave the Egyptians our final position. We are waiting for them to come back with a response,” he said.

However, Khaled al-Batsch, a representative of the Islamic Jihad militant group, said the talks had collapsed and the Palestinian delegation would leave “starting tomorrow.” He blamed “Israel stubbornness” for failure of the talks but added: “Egypt is still trying to bring back the negotiators and we hope it succeeds.”

Hamas’ chief negotiator, Izzat Risheq, was pessimistic.

“Egyptian mediators are waiting for an answer from the enemy delegation to the response of the Palestinian delegation,” he wrote on Twitter. “Even at 12 o’clock, the end of the deadline for the truce … I do not think there will be an answer.”

Hamas finds itself pressured by both Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to accept a less than perfect deal with Israel, but needs to show the people of Gaza that the enormous sacrifices they endured in the fighting were not in vain.

In an apparent attempt to pressure Hamas, Egypt said early Monday it would co-host an international fundraising conference for Gaza — but only if a deal is reached first.

That appears to play into the hands of Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, which is eager to regain control of Gaza.

The disagreements have focused around the lifting of the blockade, with Hamas pushing for far more dramatic concessions than Israel is willing to offer.

The Gaza blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people, restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent arms smuggling, but critics say the measures have amounted to collective punishment.

The latest round of Gaza fighting was precipitated by massive Israeli arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank in the aftermath of the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June. Their deaths were followed by the slaying of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem in what was a likely revenge attack.

TIME Gaza

Palestinians: Child Killed in Airstrike

(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) — Palestinian medical officials in the Gaza Strip say two people, including a 2-year-old girl, have been killed in an Israeli airstrike.

Israel resumed its campaign of airstrikes in Gaza on Tuesday in response to a barrage of Palestinian rocket fire that shattered a truce. The sudden burst of fighting has threatened to derail an Egyptian effort to end a monthlong war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

Palestinian medical official Ashraf al-Kidra said a total of 21 people were wounded in an airstrike that hit a building that houses offices of Hamas’ Al Aqsa TV station. He said two people, including a 40-year-old woman and the young girl, were killed in a separate airstrike in Gaza City. They were the first fatalities in Tuesday’s fighting.

Palestinian and U.N. officials say more than 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the fighting erupted on July 8. Sixty-seven people on the Israeli side have died, all but three of them soldiers.

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