Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Air strikes resume as Gaza three-day truce ends

A medic carries a wounded girl into Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, as Israel and Gaza militants resumed their attacks.
A medic carries a wounded girl into Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, as Israel and Gaza militants resumed their attacks. LEFTERIS PITARAKIS / AP
GAZA CITY - A brief three-day peace crumbled Friday after Gaza militants fired dozens of rockets at Israel and Israeli forces responded with their own salvos, including an air strike near a mosque in Gaza that killed a 10-year-old boy.

In Cairo, high-level talks to end the month-long war stumbled, with mixed messages issued that offered little confidence that a deal was near.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "deep disappointment" over the failure to extend the truce, which ended Friday morning.

The Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and is branded a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, issued statements through its military wing that it would continue to fight until all its demands - for more open borders, more freedom of movement and trade, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the building of sea and airports - were met.

On Thursday night, a spokesman for Hamas' military wing essentially warned his political leaders that they should pack up and come home unless there was more progress in Cairo.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said late Friday: "We think Israel is dragging its feet. They did not respond to our demands and have not done a thing to show that there is a reason to extend the cease-fire."

Mkhaimer Abusada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University in Gaza City, said, "The Palestinian side feels it can't extend the cease-fire without getting something, some positive results."

The talks in Cairo are being brokered by Egypt and its security apparatus, led by a government dominated by military leaders who are hostile to Hamas. American and European diplomats are struggling to exert influence in talks that have produced only short pauses in the violence.

A high-level military delegation from Israel left Cairo early Friday. Israeli authorities declared that they would not talk peace while under hostile fire.

A delegation of Palestinian negotiators remained in Cairo in hopes of salvaging the talks. But participants said the negotiations were not going well. The delegation met again late Friday with Egyptian mediators.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the negotiations were progressing and that there remained only "a few, limited points" to sort out.

Few diplomats voiced such optimism in public.

"I think Hamas has nothing to lose. They have to show something, or they have lost," said Kobi Michael, a former deputy director general at Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs.

Michael said Hamas was in "a very difficult position" as "Egypt is very tough now with Hamas" with its new military-led government more closely allied with Israel than with the Gaza movement.

"Israel," he added, "is very frustrated, very angry, and the Israelis are calling for retaliation, for dealing with this, ending this rocket fire from Gaza, in a very, very harsh manner."

On Friday, families in Gaza began fleeing areas close to the Israeli border, fearing Israeli air strikes and artillery. Cars and trucks filled with women and children sped toward the center of Gaza City. Horse carts and pickup trucks were topped with mattresses and suitcases.

Among the wounded in Gaza, health officials said, were five other children. Israeli police reported that two Israelis were wounded by Palestinian rocket fire.

"The United States is very concerned about today's developments in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Friday. "We condemn the renewed rocket fire, and we are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides of that conflict."

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

Sudarsan Raghavan Washington Post
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