Before truce begins, Israel kills top Islamic Jihad commander Danyal Mansour • U.S. "appalled" by Israel's "disgraceful" shelling of U.N.-run school in Rafah • Palestinians accuse Israel of violating truce, attacking Shati refugee camp in Gaza City.
A unilateral seven-hour humanitarian cease-fire went into effect in most of the Gaza Strip at 10 a.m. on Monday, aiming to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid and allow some of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by almost four weeks of war to go home.
But less than two hours into the lull, rocket fire into Israel resumed, with sirens sounding in southern towns and cities. Several rockets exploded in open areas. Another rocket hit the Kerem Shalom area. No injuries were reported.
Israel announced the cease-fire on Thursday evening, adding that fire would elicit fire. The announcement was met with suspicion from Gaza's ruling Hamas terrorist group and followed unusually strong censure from Washington at the apparent Israeli shelling on Sunday of a U.N.-run shelter that killed 10 people.
An Israeli defense official said the cease-fire, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., would apply everywhere but areas of the southern town of Rafah, where ground forces have intensified assaults after three soldiers died in a Hamas ambush there on Friday.
"If the truce is breached, the military will return fire during the declared duration of the truce," the official said. The official said east Rafah was the only urban area in which troops and tanks were still present, having been withdrawn or redeployed near Gaza's border with Israel over the weekend.
Palestinians accused Israel of violating the truce by launching an attack on a refugee camp in Gaza City that killed an eight-year-old girl and wounded 29 other people.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said the strike on a house in Shati camp took place after the truce was scheduled to start on Monday morning.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was checking the report.
Hamas, whose envoys are in Egypt for truce negotiations that Israel has shunned in anger at Friday's ambush in Rafah, saw a possible ruse in the humanitarian truce announcement.
"The calm Israel declared is unilateral and aims to divert attention away from the Israeli massacres. We do not trust such a calm and we urge our people to exercise caution," said the group's spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri.
Israel is winding down its offensive in the absence of a mediated disengagement deal with Hamas. It says the military is close to completing its main objective of destroying cross-border infiltration tunnels from Gaza and is prepared to resume strikes in response to any attacks by the Palestinians.
IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz said forces were deployed along both sides of the Gaza border.
"Redeployment lets us work on the tunnels, provides defense (to Israeli communities nearby) and lets the forces set up for further activity. There is no ending here, perhaps an interim phase," Almoz told Army Radio.
In a predawn air strike Israel killed a senior commander of the Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian group fighting alongside Hamas. Islamic Jihad identified him as Danyal Mansour, head of the group's northern command, and said he was killed in a bombing of a house in Jablaya. Almoz confirmed Israeli forces struck him.
Many of the Palestinians evacuees have taken shelter in U.N.-run facilities, including a Rafah school where 10 people were killed on Sunday in what Gaza officials said was an Israeli air strike.
Israel said it was investigating the incident and that it may have been linked to an attempt by the military to kill Islamic Jihad gunmen, as they drove nearby.
The incident sparked an international outcry. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the attack as a "moral outrage and a criminal act" and called for those responsible for the "gross violation of international humanitarian law" to be held accountable.
The United States said it was "appalled" by the "disgraceful shelling" and urged its Middle East ally to do more to prevent harm to civilians. Washington also called for an investigation into other, similar attacks on U.N. schools in Gaza.
Israel says it makes every effort to avoid non-combatant casualties and that Hamas invites these by launching rockets from, and entrenching gunmen inside, congested civilian areas.
"Hamas has an interest in Gaza residents suffering, thinking that the world will blame Israel for their suffering," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement on Monday, adding that Israel was allowing foreign aid shipments to enter the Palestinian territory.
The Prime Minister's Office said Hamas had further inflamed the humanitarian crisis by turning U.N. facilities into "terrorist hot spots." The main U.N. agency in Gaza, UNRWA, says it has found rockets in three of its schools.
Israel has lost 64 soldiers in combat and three civilians to Palestinian cross-border rocket and mortar fire that has emptied many of its southern communities. Iron Dome interceptors, air raid sirens and public shelters have helped stem Israeli casualties from Gazan rockets.
Egyptian truce mediation, supported by the U.S. and the U.N. and also involving Qatar, Turkey and Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, has been complicated by the dramatically divergent terms set by Israel and Hamas.
Israel has said Gaza must be stripped of tunnels and rocket stocks. Hamas rules this out, and demands an easing of the blockade enforced in Gaza by both Israel and Egypt, which consider the Palestinian Islamists a security threat.
In Cairo on Sunday, Palestinian delegates said they also wanted Israel to quit Gaza, facilitate reconstruction of the battered territory and release Palestinian prisoners.
The Israelis, however, have shown little interest in resuming negotiations after blaming Hamas for violating Friday's truce with the Rafah ambush -- an accusation echoed by the United States and the United Nations, though disputed by Hamas.
Post a Comment