Israel, Hamas Resume Hostilities as Cairo Talks Fail

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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Israel and Hamas resumed hostilities on Friday after negotiators in Cairo failed to extend a three-day cease-fire and Palestinian fighters again began firing rockets into southern Israel.

As the truce formally ended at 8 a.m. local time, warning sirens blared in several towns and cities in southern Israel. Within minutes, rockets arced from Gaza into southern Israel, and Israeli warplanes and naval vessels retaliated with strikes in the coastal strip.

A Palestinian official said Friday afternoon that his delegation had remained in Cairo and was willing to resume negotiations on a new cease-fire. An Israeli official said his government wouldn't negotiate under fire.

By late afternoon, 45 missiles had been fired at Israel, 35 had hit and 3 were intercepted, the Israeli military said. In the exchange of fire, two Israelis were wounded, it said. A 10-year-old Palestinian boy was killed in an attack on a mosque in Gaza, health officials in the territory said.

In ordering his military to respond "forcefully" to the renewed Palestinian rocket fire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas had refused the opportunity to extend the 72-hour truce agreed upon by the two sides earlier this week.

"The renewed rocket attacks by terrorists at Israel are unacceptable, intolerable and shortsighted," said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman. "We will continue to strike Hamas, its infrastructure, its operatives and restore security for the state of Israel."

Four hours before the cease-fire lapsed, two rockets from the Gaza Strip crashed into Israel, the military said. It wasn't known whether fighters from Hamas or one of the smaller armed factions in Gaza carried out the attacks.

An hour before the scheduled expiration of the 72-hour cease-fire, the Israeli delegation left the Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo and returned home.

Israeli Economics Minister Naftali Bennett said that Israel mustn't allow rocket fire be used as a leverage in cease- fire talks. "This is a moment of trial for Israeli deterrence in coming years. The response must be stiff," Mr. Bennett said.

Hamas representatives had refused an extension of the cease-fire unless steps were taken to lift Israel's economic embargo on Gaza. Late Thursday, the movement's political wing, the Qassam Brigades, said it was ready to fight again if its conditions weren't met.

It threatened to shut down air traffic at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, unless Israel agreed to the construction of a seaport in the coastal strip.

On Friday afternoon, Azzam al Ahmad, a Palestinian official, said the delegation in Cairo was willing to continue working with Egyptian mediators to reach a final agreement with the Israelis, rather than again escalate violence. But Israel would have to lift the economic blockade of Gaza, he said.

"We present demands that have to do with stopping the war," Mr. Ahmad told reporters at hotel in southeast Cairo on Friday afternoon.

"We hope these demands are met. It would pave the way for a political process that would end the violence and the war and end the bloodshed," he added.

During the talks, Egyptian mediators attempted to soften Hamas's demands, saying that the insistence on a seaport, like Israel's push for the demilitarization of Gaza, should be discussed as part of a broader settlement and not as part of a truce deal. Israel also proposed loosening some elements of the economic blockade, rather than lifting it completely, according to one Palestinian official familiar with the discussions.

The truce was the longest pause in fighting that has killed 1,893 Palestinians and 67 Israelis, including three civilians, since the war started on July 8, according to Palestinian and Israeli officials.

The end of the truce came on a day when many residents from towns near the Gaza border were planning to return home.

"I have a very heavy feeling," said Ronit Minaker, the spokeswoman for the Eshkol Regional Council in southern Israel. "There were sirens and two [rocket] landings around 4 a.m. Then at 8 a.m. there was fire at our towns."

Gazans hunkered down on Friday as news spread about the breakdown of the Cairo talks and the resumption of hostilities. Some displaced families who had returned to their homes during the cease-fire went back to shelters in the morning.

"This morning at 6 a.m. we came back here because knew things were not reaching any good conclusion in Cairo," said Mahmoud Masharawi, 33, who was at a U.N.-run shelter in Gaza with his wife and four children. The family had camped out for two days near their home in the Sha'af area east of Gaza City, trying to recover belongings and photos of his dead brother.

Three-quarters of the 1,760 people living at the shelter before the cease-fire went back home when the violence subsided, according to its director. The population was already back to 1,600 by Friday afternoon. They started arriving at 2 a.m., he said, and there was a big surge at 6 a.m.

The shelter, run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, is normally a school for children aged six to nine. Families live in its classrooms and under tents made of sheets and wood pitched on its grounds. A spokesman for Unrwa said there were 171,240 people in 89 shelters it runs as of 10:30 in the morning, only a modest increase from the night before. But he said the overall number of displaced people in Gaza was far higher.

Amina Ismail in Cairo contributed to this article.

Write to Rory Jones at rory.jones@wsj.com and Asa Fitch at asa.fitch@wsj.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires


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