TIME Syria

Syrian Rebels, Government Clash in Golan Heights

Mideast Israel Palestinians
U.N. soldiers observe Syria's Quneitra province at an observation point near the border with Syria on Sept. 1, 2014 Sebastian Scheiner—AP

Syria's state news agency says the military killed "many terrorists"

(BEIRUT) — Syrian rebels clashed with government troops on Monday in the Golan Heights, where al-Qaida-linked insurgents abducted U.N. peacekeepers last week, activists said.

The fighting was focused around the town of Hamidiyeh in Quneitra province near the disputed frontier with Israel, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory said there were casualties on both sides but did not have exact figures.

Syria’s state news agency said the military killed “many terrorists” and destroyed a heavy machine gun in the fighting. The government refers to those trying to oust President Bashar Assad as terrorists.

Heavy clashes have raged in the area since Syrian rebels captured a border crossing near the abandoned town of Quneitra on Wednesday. One day later, fighters from al-Qaida’s Syria branch, the Nusra Front, abducted 45 Fijian peacekeepers and surrounded two Filipino contingents serving in the U.N. mission that monitors the buffer zone between Israel and Syria.

The Filipino troops escaped over the weekend, while the Fijians are still being held by the Nusra Front. The United Nations says that it is seeking the Fijians’ immediate and unconditional release. It says it has not established where the peacekeepers are being held.

Fiji’s military commander said Tuesday that the Nusra Front has issued three demands for the release of the Fijian peacekeepers.

Brig. Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said the Nusra Front wants to be taken off the U.N. terrorist list, wants humanitarian aid delivered to parts of the Syrian capital Damascus, and wants compensation for three of its fighters it says were killed in a shootout with U.N. officers Tikoitoga said the U.N. has sent hostage negotiators to Syria.

The rebels’ targeting of the U.N. mission has touched off criticism among some nations contributing troops to the peacekeeping force about how the Golan Heights operation functions.

Ireland, which contributes a 130-member armored rapid response unit to the U.N. mission, warned Monday it would not replace its troops next month if U.N. leaders in New York do not agree on strengthening the force’s firepower, command and control, and rules of engagement.

“I’ve made it very clear that I’m not going to continue to commit Irish troops to this mission unless there’s a very fundamental review of how it’s going to operate. Clearly this is no longer a demilitarized zone,” Irish Defense Minister Simon Coveney told RTE state radio in Dublin.

“We need to get a significant reassurance from the U.N., and the Syrian side, that we can operate a mission safely. The risk levels, given what’s happened over the last three days, are not acceptable.”

He said Irish troops in armored vehicles exchanged fire with rebels Saturday as they rescued Filipino troops from one of the besieged border posts. The Indian-led, 1,250-member force includes soldiers from Fiji, India, Nepal, the Philippines and the Netherlands.

Coveney said the Irish unit remained on standby for a potential rescue of the seized Fijian troops. Ireland’s current military deployment has been in the Golan Heights since March and is supposed to be replaced by other Irish soldiers next month.

An Irish withdrawal could deal a final blow to the U.N. mission, which has already seen Austria and Croatia pull their forces last year over fears they would be targeted. The Philippines, meanwhile, has said it would bring home its peacekeepers after their tour of duty ends in October.

The group that abducted the peacekeepers, the Nusra Front, published a statement online on Sunday that included photos showing what it said were the captured Fijians, along with 45 identification cards. The group said the men were “in a safe place and in good health.”

The statement mentioned no demands or conditions for the peacekeepers’ release.

The Nusra Front accused the U.N. of doing nothing to help the Syrian people since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. It said the Fijians were seized in retaliation for the U.N.’s ignoring “the daily shedding of the Muslims’ blood in Syria” and even colluding with Assad’s army “to facilitate its movement to strike the vulnerable Muslims” through a buffer zone in the Golan Heights.

The group is one of the two most powerful extremist factions fighting in Syria’s civil war, which the U.N. says has killed more than 190,000 people. However, the Nusra Front has been eclipsed by the Islamic State group, which broke away from al-Qaida earlier this year and has since carved out a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border.

Human Rights Watch said Monday that it has credible evidence that the Islamic State group has used ground-fired cluster munitions in at least one place in northern Syria. These weapons explode in the air, releasing hundreds of tiny bomblets. Those that fail to explode pose a long-lasting danger to civilians.

The New York-based rights group said that reports from local Kurdish officials as well as photographs indicate the extremists fired cluster munitions on July 12 and Aug. 14 during clashes with Kurdish forces around Ayn Arab near the Turkish border. Five people were killed in the attacks, Human Rights Watch said.

It was no clear how Islamic State fighters had acquired the weapons, the group said.

The Syrian government has used at least 249 cluster munitions since mid-2012, according to Human Rights Watch.

“Any use of cluster munitions deserves condemnation, but the best response is for all nations to join the treaty banning them and work collectively to rid the world of these weapons,” said HRW’s Steve Goose.

TIME Israel

Israel Claims Almost 1,000 Acres of West Bank for New Settlement

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sebastian Scheiner—AP

Decision reportedly taken after the June abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers

Israel declared a large section of the West Bank as “state lands” on Sunday, in a move that caused outrage among Palestinian authorities.

The Los Angeles Times, citing local media sources, reported that the Israeli government took over 990 acres in the Palestinian territory south of Bethlehem.

This declaration is the largest since 1980, according to antisettlement group Peace Now, which said it would have a significant impact on the region.

Peace Now’s Yariv Oppenheimer wrote in a Facebook post that the appropriation of land was a “stab in the back” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Oppenheimer added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “destroying any diplomatic horizon.”

Abbas’ office warned that the Israeli attempt to encroach upon Palestinian land would further escalate the conflict between the two sides, and called for the declaration to be withdrawn.

The Israeli government reportedly wants to keep the part of the West Bank it calls the Etzion Bloc in any future agreements with the Palestinians, and Peace Now reports that the lands have been earmarked for the expansion of the settlement of Gevaot there.

Settlement leaders sought to justify the annexation of the land, which was reportedly decided by the government after the June abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers. Yigal Dilmoni, of the umbrella settlement group called the Yesha Council, said it was “an appropriate Zionist response to terror attacks against Israel.”

Hanan Ashrawi, of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, responded that Israel is moving toward a “de facto one-state solution,” and aims to “wipe out any Palestinian presence on the land.”

[LAT]

TIME Middle East

Israel-Gaza Talks Collapse as Fighting Resumes Where It Left Off

Destruction is seen from the bathroom of a Palestinian apartment in the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanun, on August 18, 2014.
Destruction is seen from the bathroom of a Palestinian apartment in the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanun, on August 18, 2014. Thomas Coex—AFP/Getty Images

Renewed rocket fire from the Gaza strip was met with Israeli airstrikes Tuesday, as Egypt negotiations were called off

Hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza resumed and peace negotiations in Cairo were called off Tuesday, with Israeli negotiators called home to Jerusalem hours before an already prolonged cease-fire was due to expire.

Militants in Gaza launched three rockets in the direction of the Israeli city of Beersheba at close to 4 p.m. local time on Tuesday afternoon, Israel Defense Forces reported. They fell in open areas and no one was injured. But the very fact of even a trio of rockets being launched tested the doctrine that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials had reiterated in recent days: that Israel would not negotiate under fire, and would not accept even a “drizzle” of rocket fire from Hamas and its allies in Gaza.

“If Hamas thinks that through the continued drizzle of rocket fire it will force us to make concessions, it’s mistaken,” Netanyahu warned on Sunday. The metaphor of this drizzle – or tif-toof as it’s referred to in Hebrew – has become the new catch-phrase being used in Israel to embody a zero-tolerance policy to rockets. Tens of thousands of Israelis, including residents of the southern parts of Israel who have often been subjected to rocket fire even when there isn’t a full-scale conflict going on, protested in Tel Aviv last Thursday night, demanding a more definitive solution to the problem.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Minister of Economy, Naftali Bennett, said after the renewed fire Tuesday that it was impossible to negotiate with Hamas. “When you hold negotiations with a terror organization, you get more terror,” he said. “Hamas thinks that firing rockets helps in securing achievement in negotiations, therefore it is firing at Israel even during a cease-fire. Rockets are not a mistake [for Hamas], they are a method.”

A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, accused Israel of dragging out the talks and of not being serious about reaching an agreement. “Israel’s foot-dragging proves it has no will to reach a truce deal,” Abu Zuhri said. “The Palestinian factions are ready to all possibilities,” he added, presaging the likelihood of a return to further conflict.

He also said that he had “no information about rocket fire coming from Gaza,” making it unclear as to which group actually launched the rockets. There are smaller militant groups than Hamas operating in Gaza; the largest of them, Islamic Jihad, has a delegation attending the talks in Cairo.

The return to hostilities is hardly the outcome everyone was waiting for as negotiators neared the end of their deadline for reaching a deal to bring a brutal and bloody summer of fighting to an end. Only a day earlier, the Israeli and Palestinian delegations meeting in Cairo were reported to be very close to reaching an agreement, as the nearly week-long ceasefire was extended for another 24 hours.

However, there were still large gaps on key issues. Hamas has demanded a complete lifting of the closure on the Gaza Strip, as well as permission to build an international seaport in Gaza. Israel has said it will not allow Hamas to use looser restrictions to rearm or to rebuild tunnels into Israel.

After the three initial rockets, further rocket salvoes on southern Israel were reported Tuesday afternoon. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an IDF Spokesperson said that the IDF “will continue striking terror infrastructure, pursuing terrorists, and eliminating terror capabilities in the Gaza Strip, in order to restore security for the State of Israel.”

TIME Middle East

Poll: 92% of Israeli Jews Say Operation Protection Edge Was Justified

Talks resume in Cairo, as fresh 3-day truce holds in Gaza
A general view of a Merkava tanks near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, 11 August 2014. Abir Sultan—EPA

A poll of Israeli public opinion in the aftermath of the ground invasion of Gaza finds overwhelming approval of the military operation among Israeli Jews.

A total of 92% of Israeli Jews agreed that Operation Protective Edge was justified, according to the monthly Peace Index poll published Tuesday by the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent think-tank, and Tel Aviv University. The survey found that even amongst self-described left-leaning Israeli Jews, 67% thought the operation was justified.

But Jewish Israelis weren’t so unified on the question of whether the Israel Defense Forces used the appropriate amount of firepower in its operation. While 48% thought the amount was just right, some 45% think too little firepower was used. 6% felt the IDF used too much.

Published two weeks after Israel announced the withdrawal of all ground troops in Operation Protective Edge from Gaza on Aug. 5, the poll found that just 13% of Israeli Arabs believed the government had achieved most or all of its goals, compared with 44% of Israeli Jews.

As Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet to discuss a cease-fire the real question is whether peace will be brought to the troubled region. Sadly 71% of Israeli Jews thought chances were low that Operation Protective Edge would lead to three or more years of quiet from Gaza. Amongst Israeli Arabs the figure was 49%.

 

TIME Egypt

Israelis, Palestinians Resume Talks on Gaza Deal

Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas listens to Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby during their meeting at his residence in Cairo on July 16, 2014 Amr Nabil—AP

Following Egypt's announcement of a 24-hour extension of a cease-fire, Palestinian and Israeli leaders met in Cairo to negotiate details about the future of the Gaza Strip

(CAIRO) — Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in Cairo resumed indirect talks on Tuesday, trying to hammer out a roadmap for the war-torn Gaza Strip after Egypt announced a 24-hour extension of the cease-fire to allow more time for negotiations.

The extension of the truce fanned hopes of an emerging deal, however vague, though wide gaps remain on key issues, including Israel’s blockade of Gaza, its demands for disarmament of the Islamic militant group Hamas and Palestinian demands for a Gaza sea port and an airport.

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 the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which is seeking to regain a Gaza foothold, seven years after Hamas ousted it from power in the densely populated coastal strip.

A member of the Palestinian delegation said that Israel was offering to ease the Gaza blockade by opening border crossings to some goods and people, but was insisting that it retain the right to limit the imports of material like cement, and chemical and metal products, which Israel says can be used for weapons manufacturing.

The Palestinian official also told The Associated Press that Israel wants to put off for an unspecified, later date any discussion on the opening of a Gaza sea port and airport and the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss negotiations with the media.

The Gaza blockade, imposed after Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, 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.

Jamal Shobaky, the Palestinian ambassador in Cairo voiced disappointment with the Israeli stance, particularly on the question of the blockade.

“What the Israelis have offered so far in the talks is not removing the blockade but rather easing it,” Shobaky said.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev would not comment on the talks.

The latest Gaza round of fighting was precipitated by massive Israeli arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank, following the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers.

On Monday, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said it had uncovered a coup plot due to information gleaned from the arrests. It described the plot as a Hamas coup attempt in the West Bank aimed at toppling Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The three Israeli teens were slain in June in the West Bank. Their killings were followed by the slaying of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem in what was a likely revenge attack.

Since the war started with an Israeli air campaign on July 8, followed by the introduction of troops on the ground nine days later, many of the strip’s structures have been destroyed and tens of thousands of people remain huddled in U.N. shelters.

Gaza Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra said Monday the death toll from the fighting had jumped to over 2,000 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, while U.N. officials, who often take more time to verify figures, put the number at 1,976. Israel lost 67 people, all but three of them soldiers.

TIME Gaza

Remembering Videographer Simone Camilli: Watch One of His Final Projects

Simone Camilli
Associated Press video journalist Simone Camilli on a balcony overlooking smoke from Israeli Strikes in Gaza City. Camilli, 35, was killed in an ordnance explosion in the Gaza Strip, on Aug. 13, 2014 together with Palestinian translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash and three members of the Gaza police. Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

The video journalist was killed, along with a Palestinian translator, on Wednesday as they were reporting on the conflict in Gaza

Simone Camilli, a 35-year-old Italian journalist, was killed Wednesday in an ordnance explosion while reporting from the Gaza strip.

Camilli started his career in 2005 in Rome, as an intern with the Associated Press.

“He was a sponge,” said Derl McCrudden, head of international video news for the Associated Press. “He was one of those guys who learned everything he could about the job.”

One of his first assignments was to portray the world’s sorrow at the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

Maria Grazia Murru, currently a senior producer with the AP in Rome, remembers Camilli at the start of his career. “He was passionate about wanting to tell people’s stories and wanted to be where the story was all the time,” she said. “He wanted to learn everything and be the first, he was never happy waiting for images to happen.”

In 2006, Camilli moved to Jerusalem. From that moment on, he grew accustomed to rockets flying overhead, as he embarked on assignments in Israel, Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon and other areas of conflict. Camilli immersed himself in wartime reporting, vividly capturing with his camera both moments of sorrow and joy, colleagues said.

“His video had a signature, an incredible eye for detail and was able to personalize stories and portray human drama,” said Tomislav Skaro, a regional editor of international video for the AP. “He was incredibly calm, mature beyond his age, gentle and the friend that everybody wants to have.”

Camilli’s father, Pierluigi Camilli, said his son loved his work. The senior Camilli is a former journalist himself who currently serves as the mayor of Pitigliano, a small town in Italy, whose nickname is “little Jerusalem.”

“I talked with Simone the other day,” Pierluigi Camilli told Italian media. “I told him to be careful but he said not to worry (…) I’m proud of Simone. He had his work in his blood.” Camilli always wanted to be on the front lines, his father added.

In one of his last multimedia projects, Camilli worked with AP photographer Dan Balilty on a compelling piece depicting the 2009 Israeli bombardment in Gaza. Watch the piece below:

TIME Gaza

Palestinians Mull Egyptian Proposal for Gaza Truce

Gaza Strip, Gaza City: Palestinians are seen inside their destroyed by strikes house in Al Shaaf neighbourhood during a 72 hours ceasefire on August 11, 2012. ALESSIO ROMENZI
Palestinians roam a destroyed house in Al Shaaf neighborhood in Gaza City on Aug. 11, 2014. Alessio Romenzi for TIME

Although an Egyptian proposal that called for easing parts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza was tabled on Tuesday, Palestinian negotiators say that they considered the proposal and would try to improve it

(CAIRO) — Palestinian negotiators were mulling over an Egyptian proposal to end the monthlong Israel-Hamas war as the latest 72-hour cease-fire in the Gaza Strip was due to expire on midnight Wednesday.

Since the truce went into effect Sunday, Israel has halted military operations in the coastal territory and Gaza militants have stopped firing rockets.

The cease-fire was meant to give the two sides time to negotiate a more sustainable truce and a roadmap for the coastal territory.

A member of the Palestinian delegation to Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo said Wednesday that his team was considering an Egyptian proposal, which was tabled on Tuesday. Egyptian mediators have been were ferrying between the Palestinians and their Israeli counterparts in an attempt overcome the differences between the sides.

The Egyptian proposal calls for easing parts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, bringing some relief to the territory, according to Palestinian officials in the talks. But it leaves the key areas of disagreement, including Hamas’ demand for a full lifting of the blockade and Israeli calls for Hamas to disarm, to later negotiations.

The Palestinian negotiator said he had some reservations about the proposal and would try to improve it.

“We would like to see more cross-border freedom, and also to have the question of a Gaza seaport and airport discussed,” he said.

The Palestinian officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss negotiations with the media. An Israeli government spokesman had no comment on the negotiations.

The war began on July 8 with Israel’s air campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers, whom Israel blamed for the kidnapping and murder in June of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Nine days later, Israel sent in ground troops to destroy Hamas’ underground cross-border tunnels constructed for attacks inside Israel.

The fighting has so far killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, Palestinian and U.N. officials say. On the Israeli side, 67 people have died, all but three of them soldiers.

The latest outbreak of fighting is the third between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since Hamas took over control of the densely-populated territory in 2007. Hamas has been consistently pushing for an end of an Israeli Gaza blockade, which Israel says is necessary to prevent the group from gaining access to weapons and munitions it deploys against Israelis.

TIME Gaza

Israeli Tactic to Stop Soldier Capture Criticized

Mideast Israel Captured Soldiers
Palestinians look for their belonging after houses were destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Aug. 2, 2014 Hatem Ali—AP

An Israeli military tactic that allows soldiers to unleash air strikes and artillery fire to prevent the abduction of Israeli troops is receiving criticism after causing the death of 100 Palestinians in Gaza

(JERUSALEM) — An Israeli military tactic that allows overwhelming fire to stop the capture of soldiers — even at the risk of killing them — is facing criticism after its use in the Gaza war killed some 100 Palestinians.

The military used the “Hannibal Procedure” after soldiers feared militants had captured an officer, unleashing heavy shelling on the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Now, a group is calling on the military to abandon the practice, saying it puts captured soldiers at unreasonable risk and can lead to civilian deaths.

In an army with a strong ethos of “no soldier left behind,” there is a near obsession with preventing the abduction of Israeli troops, in part because past cases have ended in painful, lopsided prisoner exchanges after years of protracted negotiations. New recruits learn that if they see a soldier being captured and rushed away in a car, they should shoot at the vehicle to stop its progress, even if it risks the soldier’s life.

The “Hannibal Procedure” was designed in the mid-1980s by Yossi Peled, then head of Israel’s Northern Command, after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two soldiers in southern Lebanon.

The actual order was drafted along with two of his top staff officers, Col. Gabi Ashkenazi, who later became the Israeli military chief, and Col. Yaakov Amidror, who recently ended a term as Israel’s national security adviser. Hannibal was a legendary military commander who battled the ancient Romans, though officials say the name was selected randomly by a computer.

Peled declined to comment, but Amidror stood behind a rationale he said was often misinterpreted. He said it gives young soldiers on the ground clear guidelines for such a situation.

“The order is that you cannot kill the soldier, but you can endanger him. A soldier in that situation knows he is in danger anyway,” he said. “How is it any different than giving a soldier an order to charge forward into live fire? You are also putting his life in danger that way. That’s what soldiers do.”

However, its application in the Gaza war has angered critics who say it may have led to the deaths of scores of Palestinians on Aug. 1, when Israeli soldiers feared militants had captured Lt. Hadar Goldin.

Hamas fire killed Goldin and two other Israeli soldiers near Rafah, along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, shortly after an internationally brokered cease-fire took effect.

According to Israeli media reports, three bodies were found at the scene shortly after the ambush, but upon closer inspection troops realized that one of them was a Hamas militant disguised in an Israeli uniform — raising fears that Hamas had captured Goldin.

That’s when “Hannibal” allegedly went into effect, with Israel unleashing a massive barrage of airstrikes and artillery fire aimed at blocking any potential escape routes of the kidnappers. Defying protocol, a fellow officer rushed into one of the tunnels and found some personal effects belonging to Goldin that helped the military later rule him dead.

The military would not officially confirm whether “Hannibal” was enacted after Goldin’s disappearance, but multiple officials say the rare order was given. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists.

The heavy shelling leveled the area in Rafah, killing some 100 Palestinians, Palestinian health officials say. They could not offer a breakdown of the number of civilians and militants killed.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, a prominent rights group, asked the government this week to strike down the doctrine and investigate its use.

“A protocol that puts the life of the captured soldier in jeopardy to thwart a kidnapping is fundamentally unacceptable,” ACRI wrote to Israel’s attorney general on Monday. “Implementing this protocol in populated areas, wherein the soldier and his captors are surrounded by a civilian population that is not taking part in hostilities, is strictly prohibited.”

Israel’s Justice Ministry declined to comment, merely saying it received the letter.

The fear of being captured runs deep in Israeli society, where military service is mandatory for most Jewish males. Islamic militant groups have put a premium on capturing soldiers. When they have succeeded, they have not extended international prisoner of war rights, preventing visits from the Red Cross and keeping word of their captives’ status secret.

Asa Kasher, a philosophy professor who authored the military’s official code of conduct in the 1990s, said the “Hannibal Procedure” has been grossly misunderstood and strikes a delicate balance between protecting the lives of soldiers and carrying out military responsibilities. Much of the directive remains classified, but Kasher stressed the conventional wisdom of a “dead soldier being better than a captive soldier” was a fallacy.

“That is just an awful saying and totally untrue. It goes against every value of the” Israeli military, he said.

However, Tamar Feldman, an ACRI lawyer, said the practice violates the potential captive’s human rights. When employed in a crowded area like Gaza, it raised even more questions.

“A command that subjugates the life of a soldier to an unknown political gain … is both cynical and revolting,” she wrote. “Activating this protocol in the heart of an urban and civilian environment is particularly grave; it shakes the foundations of law and morality and must be absolutely condemned.”

TIME Gaza

Gaza Rockets Fired as Israel-Hamas Truce Expires

Mideast Israel Palestinians
A Palestinian walks into a house destroyed by an Israeli strike in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaiyah, Gaza Strip on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Lefteris Pitarakis—Associated Press

The Israeli amy says that at least ten rockets were fired from Gaza on Friday as a 72-hour ceasefire ends, leading to a likely resumption of hostilities

(GAZA CITY) — Gaza militants renewed rocket fire on Israel after a three-day truce expired on Friday and negotiations in Cairo on a new border deal for the coastal strip hit a deadlock.

The Israeli military said at least 10 rockets were fired at Israel after the temporary truce expired at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT). One rocket was intercepted over the city of Ashkelon, while the others hit open areas.

In Jerusalem, government spokesman Mark Regev blamed Gaza militants for breaking the cease-fire.

“The ceasefire is over,” Regev said. “They did that.”

He would not say whether Israel was interested in extending the ceasefire, or whether Israel would respond to the rockets.

Earlier, a senior Hamas official said the militant group would not extend the cease-fire. He said that Israel had rejected all of Hamas’ demands in the Egyptian-brokered talks, including a guarantee in principle thatGaza’s borders would be opened. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he had not yet delivered Hamas’ response to Egyptian officials.

The talks in Cairo followed a month of bitter Israel-Hamas fighting.

Israeli strikes on Gaza killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians, wounded more than 9,000, devastated large areas along Gaza’s border with Israel and displaced tens of thousands of people. Sixty-seven people, all but three of them soldiers, were killed on the Israeli side, and Gaza militants fired thousands of rockets at Israel over the past month.

Israel said it was going after Hamas targets, including rocket launching sites and military tunnels, and carried out close to 5,000 strikes. The U.N. said most of those killed in Gaza were civilians and that in dozens of cases, strikes hit family homes, killing multiple members of the same family at once. The Israeli military said initial estimates show at least 40 percent of those killed were fighters.

It was not clear if Friday’s renewed rocket fire and tough messages from Hamas were negotiating tactics or the beginning of a return to fighting.

According to one Palestinian media report, Egypt had proposed that even without a formal extension of the truce, the two sides would hold their fire in coming days to allow for a continuation of the negotiations.

The expiration of the temporary truce was preceded by all-night meetings between Egyptian mediators and the Palestinian delegation in Cairo, which continued on Friday morning.

The Israeli delegation left Cairo on Friday morning, according to a Cairo airport official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Cairo talks focused on new border arrangements for Gaza, including the lifting of a blockade by Israel and Egypt and reconstruction of the battered territory. Israel and Egypt had enforced the blockade to varying degrees since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007.

Israel has said it is willing to consider easing the border restrictions, but demands that Hamas disarm, a condition the Islamic militant group has rejected.

Hamas has said it is willing to hand over some power in Gaza to enable its long-time rival, Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to lead Gaza reconstruction efforts, but that it would not give up its arsenal and control over thousands of armed men.

Israel argues that it needs to keep Gaza’s borders under a blockade as long as Hamas tries to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

The closure has led to widespread hardship in the Mediterranean seaside territory. Movement in and out ofGaza is limited, the economy has ground to a standstill and unemployment is over 50 percent.

The Gaza war grew out of the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of the group’s members in the West Bank, as Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.

On July 8, Israel launched an air campaign on the coastal territory, and nine days later, sent in ground troops to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.

Shortly before the truce expired Friday, Israel’s international airport halted all incoming and outgoing flights for 30 minutes, apparently as a precautionary measure. Airports authority spokeswoman Liza Dvir said after the half hour, operations resumed as normal. There was no further comment on the measure. Last month, the Federal Aviation Authority canceled U.S. airline carriers’ flights to Israel for 36 hours because a rocket had landed near the Tel Aviv airport.

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