Gaza death toll at 193 as truce fails

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Palestinian children rest at a UN school after evacuating their homes near the border at the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on July 15, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Mahmud Hams)

Published Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Updated 6:46 pm: Israel carried out at least four air strikes against Gaza on Tuesday afternoon, resuming raids after a truce that failed to get off the ground, AFP correspondents and eyewitnesses said, as the Palestinian death toll rose to 193.

An AFP correspondent reported one air strike east of Gaza City, and eyewitnesses reported a second in the center of the city.

Witnesses also reported strikes in Nusseirat in central Gaza as well as in the Khan Yunis area in the south.

A 77-year-old man, medics said, became the most recent victim, and the first death since the failure of an Egyptian truce proposal.

The death of the man, in southern Khan Yunis, brought the toll in eight days of violence to 193, according to emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.

The renewed raids came shortly after Israel's army announced it was ending a ceasefire it had observed since 9:00 am under the terms of an Egyptian truce proposal.

Hamas had effectively rejected the proposal, saying it was not consulted and would not halt fire without a broad deal that included concessions it has sought.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior Israeli official told AFP that the occupation forces had been ordered to "act forcefully."

Hamas said it would not accept a truce that did not include certain provisions, including an end to Israel's eight-year-long siege on Gaza, and the release of Palestinian prisoners rearrested since a 2011 prisoner exchange deal.

Overnight Tuesday, Qudra said three people were killed in two separate air strikes on the southern city of Khan Younis.

And two other men in the city succumbed to injuries sustained in earlier raids, he said.

Also in the south, a woman was killed in an earlier strike on Rafah, taking Tuesday's toll to six dead, he said.

Late Monday, the death toll rose above that of the previous major assault by Israel on Gaza in November 2012 which claimed the lives of 177 Palestinians and six Israelis over eight days.

So far, no Israelis have been killed in the week-long fighting in and around Gaza, with only four people seriously injured.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights said on Sunday, when the toll stood at over 150, that three quarters of the dead were civilians.

And on Monday, a senior UN official said more than a quarter were children.

The bloodiest day so far was Saturday when 56 Gazans were killed.

Details of Egypt's ceasefire proposal came late on Monday.

"0600 GMT has been set for the beginning of the implementation of truce arrangements between the two sides," a statement said, with Cairo saying it would be willing to host talks between high-level Israeli and Palestinian delegations after the ceasefire went into effect.

Israel's security cabinet met early Tuesday, and ministers voted six to two in favor of accepting the truce.

Two hardliners voted against -- Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, both of whom have expressed support for an invasion of Gaza.

Despite the efforts to restore calm, Hamas rejected Egypt's proposal, with spokesman Fawzi Barhum telling AFP there would be no truce without a fully fledged deal to end hostilities.

"In times of war, you don't cease fire and then negotiate," he said.

Hamas had not received any official proposal, and even if Israel held its fire, it would have "no value" after the widespread damage it has wreaked in Gaza, he said.

Hamas has said it will not hold its fire without Israel agreeing to a list of demands, including an end to its eight-year blockade on Gaza and opening the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

But the Egyptian proposal made no mention of Rafah or when restrictions might be eased. It said only that "crossings shall be opened and the movement of persons and goods through (them) shall be facilitated once the security situation becomes stable on the ground."

Hamas has said it wants the release of hundreds of its activists arrested in the West Bank while Israel searched for the three missing settlers. The detainees include more than 50 Hamas men freed from Israeli jails in a 2011 prisoner exchange.

The proposed truce made no mention of the detainees in stipulating that "other issues, including security issues, shall be discussed with the sides."

But Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official who was in Cairo, said the movement had made no final decision.

"We are still in consultation and there has been no official position made by the (Hamas) movement regarding the Egyptian proposal," Moussa Abu Marzouk, who was in Cairo, said in a Facebook posting.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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