Gaza breaks Humanitarian induced cease-fire




Gaza City (CNN) — A temporary cease-fire in the conflict between Hamas and Israel expired Thursday, followed quickly by a rocket attack from Gaza and a reported Israeli military strike.

No deaths or injuries were immediately reported in the exchange of fire following a five-hour lull in hostilities, which had been requested by the United Nations to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza and for the repair of water and electrical lines damaged in more than a week of Israeli airstrikes.

State-run Hamas TV said the group’s military wing had fired the rocket at Ashkelon. Israel’s Channel 10 reported the Israeli military strike.

At least three mortar shells fired from Gaza fell on Israeli territory during the cease-fire, and the Israeli military said a soldier was injured by an explosion during an “operational activity” near southern Gaza. Troops responded with mortar fire, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Despite those incidents, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said both sides had “mostly respected” the cease-fire.

“The pause shows that a cessation of hostilities is possible if all the parties demonstrate the necessary will and put the interests of civilians, who have borne the brunt of this escalation, first,” Ban said in a statement.

At least 230 Palestinians have been killed and close to 1,700 have been injured since Israel began its anti-Hamas military operation July 7, according to Palestinian health officials.

The one fatality on the Israeli side occurred Monday when a mortar shell hit a man at the Erez border crossing, Israeli Rescue Services said.

Cairo talks

In Cairo, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-Arabi held talks Thursday aimed at reaching a cease-fire agreement.

An Israeli delegation also attended, leaving the city after several hours, the state-run al-Ahram news agency reported.

“I expect that we will reach an agreement very soon; the efforts of a cease-fire is to stop the bloodshed, killing and destruction in Gaza,” said Nabil Shaath, an Abbas adviser and member of the central committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

He said negotiatiors were focusing on stopping bloodshed above all else. He said they would later discuss Hamas demands, including opening Gaza border crossings and freeing prisoners whose freedom was negotiated in exchange for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

“These are all legitimate demands by Hamas, but the priority is for an immediate cease-fire,” Shaath said.

Hamas leaders had rejected an earlier Egyptian cease-fire proposal, saying they had not been consulted on the deal and complaining that it did not address their broader demands.

Hamas officials said Wednesday they would not participate in the Cairo talks, but PLO official Saeb Erakat, who is in the Egyptian capital with Abbas, said the Palestinian Authority leader had met with representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Erakat said negotiators are trying to extend the U.N.-sponsored temporary humanitarian cease-fire on a “rolling basis.”

“While there is no plan at this point for a comprehensive cease-fire agreement … we are trying to extend the current one by another six or 10 hours, or even several days if possible,” he said.

Egypt is playing a large role in the talks despite its distrust of Hamas.

Like Israel, Egypt considers Hamas a terror organization because of the group’s roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt’s military-led government banned after the country’s 2013 coup.

Temporary cease-fire

During Thursday’s temporary cease-fire, banks opened for the first time in 10 days in Gaza. Residents poured into the streets.

Red Cross officials visited hospitals and damaged houses to assess medical needs, and worked with local officials to fix water pipelines.

At least 10 to 15 trucks entered Gaza through the Karem Shalom border crossing once it opened at 1 p.m. (6 a.m. ET), according to Ra’ed Fatooh, the Palestinian official in charge of the crossing in Gaza.

Goods were limited to medical supplies and basic foodstuffs such as rice, sugar, oil, canned food, flour, and other basic goods, he said.

“The trucks are being subjected to strict and difficult search by the Israeli security before entering the crossing.”

He said, “We want the crossing to open in a normal fashion to go back to how it was before 2007 and to bring the required goods and products for Gaza for the people and residents to live in dignity as the rest of the world.”

Attack foiled

In addition to the two incidents during the cease-fire, Hamas’ military wing said it fired five rockets at the Israeli city of Beer Sheeva just before the cease-fire began.

And the Israeli military said it foiled an attempt by 13 Hamas militants who tried to enter the southern Israeli community of Sufa through a tunnel. The IDF released video of what it said depicted militants emerging from the tunnel. An explosion from an Israeli airstrike follows.

“We were sitting at home while we heard the sounds of gunfire and bombardments from behind our house. Later on, all residents were informed that it was an infiltration attempt,” said Eyal Brandeis, the director of the Sufa kibbutz.

“Our community is now back to its routine. I think routine is the best way to keep your sanity.”

Hamas using children as missile shields

Anger is rising over civilian deaths — including those of four children killed while playing on the beach.

The boys, ages 9 to 11, died Wednesday when a shell from an Israeli gunship exploded near them on a beach near Gaza City, according to Palestinian officials.

Their names were Ismail, Zakaria, Ahed and Mohamed — all of them cousins from the extended Bakr family.

An Israeli official said the shelling was another example of Hamas using civilians as human shields — intimating that the boys had been left to play near a rocket launcher.

“What they are deliberately doing is seeking to kill as many Palestinians as possible in order to yell to the world to, ‘Help us,’ ” Israeli Cabinet member Naftali Bennett told CNN. “This is cynical and this is cowardly.”

A Hamas official, however, called the shelling by an Israeli gunship a “massacre” and a “war crime” and demanded U.N. action.

“Those children were not firing rockets, they were just playing,” Hamas spokesman Zhuri told reporters.

Grief-stricken family

Hundreds of people gathered for the boys’ funeral Wednesday, where there were angry chants and deep grief.

“I felt as if the world had come to an end when I heard the news,” said Ramiz Bakr, the blind father of 11-year-old Mohamed. “I wish I had died before hearing he was dead.”

Israel’s military said it was aware of the deaths and was investigating. The military never intentionally targets civilians, said spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz.

“Based on preliminary results, the target of this strike was Hamas terrorist operatives. The reported civilian causalities from this strike are a tragic outcome,” the IDF said in a statement.