Gaza war rages despite truce vows

National 2 minutes, 16 seconds

GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP

ISRAEL and Hamas launched new attacks yesterday in the raging Gaza war, despite each side offering different truces to temporarily halt nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.

After initially rejecting an Israeli offer on Saturday for a 24-hour truce, Hamas said yesterday it agreed to hold fire ahead of the Aidil Fitri holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan. But as Israel’s Cabinet met to discuss the offer and the ongoing war, rockets rained down on southern Israel and Israeli strikes could be heard in Gaza.

Each side blamed the other for scuttling the efforts.

Hamas said that “due to the lack of commitment” by Israel, it resumed its fire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hamas showed it could not be trusted after it violated other cease-fire efforts.

“Israel is not obliged and is not going to let a terrorist organisation decide when it’s convenient to fire at our cities, at our people, and when it’s not,” Netanyahu told “Fox News Sunday.”

International diplomats had hoped a temporary lull could be expanded into a more sustainable truce to end the bloodshed. The 20-day war has killed more than 1,060 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to Palestinian health officials. Israel has lost 43 soldiers, while two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel were killed by rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza.

Israel says it launched the war on Hamas July 8 to halt relentless rocket fire. It expanded its assault over a week later, sending ground troops into the Gaza Strip to demolish Hamas’ wide network of tunnels, which Israel sees as a strategic threat.

Each side remains far apart on terms for a final cease-fire. Hamas has demanded that a crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza be lifted and Israel has asked that Gaza be demilitarised.

Following Hamas’ call for a break in fighting, an Israeli airstrike killed one person in Gaza when it hit a vehicle carrying municipal workers on their way to fix water pipes, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

Police said Israeli tanks resumed firing shells on densely populated areas south of Gaza City. One shell hit an apartment building and several shells struck a building at Tal Al Hawa. Navy boats also resumed firing on the coastal side of Gaza, police said. The Israeli military did not immediately confirm that it resumed strikes.

Families in Gaza ordinarily would be busy now with preparations for the three-day Aidil Fitri holiday, with children getting new clothes, shoes and haircuts, and families visiting each other.

In the outdoor market of the Jebaliya refugee camp, vendors set up stands with clothes and shoes, but said business was slow.

AP