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After Relative Quiet, the Fighting Reignites

Hopes for a ceasefire quashed by renewed hostilities

Ben Hartman
July 28, 2014
A picture taken from the Israeli side shows an Israeli army Merkava tank positionned along the border in front of buildings in the Gaza Strip on July 28, 2014. (Getty Images)

A picture taken from the Israeli side shows an Israeli army Merkava tank positionned along the border in front of buildings in the Gaza Strip on July 28, 2014. (Getty Images)

A ceasefire looked perhaps more distant than ever on Monday, after a mortar attack took the lives of at least four Israelis and injured at least nine near the Gaza border and inside the Strip, and an untold number of Palestinians were killed in incidents at Shifa Hospital and the Shati refugee camp.

The IDF has said that the Shifa blast was caused by a faulty rocket launch by Gaza gunmen, while witnesses have said that the incident and the one at Shati were caused by Israeli strikes.

In addition, on Sunday evening, an unclear number of Hamas gunmen were killed by IDF troops after infiltrating into Israel near Nahal Oz. That infiltration was first reported after a heavy salvo from Gaza sent rockets across the south and as far north as the Haifa area.

The violence that broke out late Monday came at the end of what had been one of the quietest days in weeks both in Israel and in Gaza. The day started with a tentative humanitarian ceasefire which held out for hours despite some 12 rockets fired from Gaza by mid-afternoon and Israeli attacks on 8 targets in the Strip. Earlier in the day, Gaza health authorities reported that an Israeli tank shell killed a four-year-old Palestinian boy in the northern Gaza Strip during the break in fighting.

On Sunday, Hamas said they wanted a 24-hour ceasefire in order to celebrate the holiday of Eid al-fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. Meanwhile, Israeli authorities said Monday that they have adopted a new policy of only firing in response to shooting from Gaza.

The quiet earlier on Monday followed a bloody weekend that saw seven IDF soldiers killed and 35 wounded, bringing the Israeli death toll to 46, including 43 soldiers. In Gaza, the Palestinian death toll climbed to around 1,040 according to local health officials. On Saturday, during a humanitarian ceasefire, Palestinians pulled around 140 bodies out of the rubble in cities across the Strip, and the subsequent images added fuel to international calls for a cessation of fighting.

The diplomatic sphere also remained heated despite the ceasefire, as the United Nations Security Council on Monday held an emergency meeting in New York to push for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza, and President Barack Obama expressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu his concern about the rising death toll on both sides.

In Israel, criticism towards U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been fierce ever since the Israeli security cabinet on Friday rejected a ceasefire proposal put forth by Kerry. The framework of the deal has been viewed as highly favorable towards Hamas, treating the internationally-recognized terror group as an equal negotiating party to Israel, and giving scant recognition of Israel’s security needs. It also brought Hamas-backers Qatar and Turkey into the negotiations at the expense of Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

The Israeli media reported on Monday that in the coming days a Palestinian Authority and Fatah delegation will travel to Cairo to meet with Hamas officials to discuss ceasefire terms previously proposed by Egypt.

As Eid al-Fitr began in Jerusalem on Monday, tens of thousands of worshippers gathered at Al Aqsa mosque, with many dressed in t-shirts with pro-Hamas slogans, and expressed solidarity with the residents of Gaza. The crowds gathered following a weekend of rioting in Jerusalem and the West Bank to protest the Gaza operation that saw at least six Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli police and soldiers.

Ben Hartman is the crime and national security reporter for the Jerusalem Post. He also hosts Reasonable Doubt, a crime show on TLV1 radio station in Tel Aviv. His Twitter feed is @Benhartman.

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