After three days of calm, Israel accused Hamas of breaching a cease-fire early on Friday when it fired two rockets into the country. Israel responded, a 10-year-old boy was killed, and Hamas fired dozens more missiles. Egypt, the broker of the cease-fire, called for its extension. However, Israel said it would not engage in negotiations while fighting was occurring.
A spokesman for Gaza’s emergency services reported that Friday’s air strikes from Israel resulted in the death of a 10-year-old boy and the wounding of 11 other Palestinians. During the four weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas, at least 1,894 Palestinians and 67 Israelis have been killed. According to the United Nations, 1,354 of the Palestinians killed since fighting began July 8 were civilians, including 447 children.
The Israel Defense Forces said that Palestinians fired 35 rockets into the country and that a soldier and a civilian in the south were wounded. Israeli warplanes fired upon targets in the center of the Gaza Strip, Jabaliya in the north, and Gaza City.
As a safety precaution, gatherings within 40 kilometers of the Gaza Strip and larger than 500 people were banned. Summer camps and kindergartens are now allowed to operate in the vicinity only if a bomb shelter is close by.
Israel’s air campaign against Hamas – the terror organization in control of the Gaza Strip – began July 8th. A ground offensive followed, intent on destroying thousands of Hamas rockets and a network of tunnels leading out of the Gaza Strip and into Israel. Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an army spokesman, was clear that strikes against Hamas will continue until security for Israel has been restored.
Egypt’s foreign ministry said that progress has been made in the negotiations it is mediating. Azzam Al Ahmad, the leader of a Palestinian delegation in Cairo, said that his group is “sitting here to achieve a final agreement that restores the rights” of Palestinians. In addition, a cleric close to Hamas, Mohammad Ganem, said “there must be unity in supporting the stance in the current negotiations with the Israeli enemy in Cairo.”
Demands from Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization included the removal of the eight-year blockade of Gaza by Israel and the construction of a sea port. It is not clear if the Palestinians are also demanding that Egypt lift its portion of the blockade it shares with Israel. The Palestinians also want Israel to free about 125 specific prisoners.
Although Israel withdrew completely from Gaza before the truce began on Tuesday, forces stayed at the border, prepared to respond to any resumption of fighting.
A proposal from the Germans, French and British proposes to rebuild Gaza and aims to further empower Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, along with his Palestinian Authority. At the same time, it would serve to restrict various militants organizations in Gaza, such as Hamas, in order to ensure Israel’s security.
On Wednesday, United States President Barack Obama said that the long dispute between Israel and Palestine could be resolved only if both sides take political risks. Obama reiterated his stance that Israel has every right to defend itself from the thousands of rockets from Gaza, as well as the tunnels from Gaza into Israel. Simultaneously, he was clear that people in Palestine need to feel confident that they will be enabled to rebuild their communities and not be separated from the rest of the world. Given “the kind of violence that we have seen,” Obama said he did not think “we [could] get there right away.”
Separating the Palestinian people from Hamas, Obama said twice that he is not sympathetic to Hamas, which the U.S., the U.N. and other countries classify as a terrorist organization. He does, however, have “great sympathy” for the Palestinian Authority, calling Abbas “sincere in his desire for peace,” at the same time acknowledging that the organization is now weaker than it was previously. Significantly, Obama also acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority has actually recognized the state of Israel. Israel consistently demands that any group it negotiates with acknowledge its right to exist.
By Gregory Baskin