Israel Renews Gaza Bombing After Hamas Rejects Truce PlanCalev Ben-David and Saud Abu Ramadan
Israel renewed its air raids on the Gaza Strip after a Palestinian rocket bombardment left an Egyptian truce proposal the Israelis accepted in tatters.
Hamas, the militant movement that controls Gaza, said it wasn’t consulted on the Egyptian plan, and its military wing rejected it. Within six hours, the cease-fire efforts crumbled after Gaza militants barraged Israel with 50 rockets, according to the Israeli army’s count. The Palestinian death toll climbed above 200 in the fighting that followed, while an Israeli man became his country’s first fatality from fire since Israel ratcheted up its campaign against Gaza rocket squads last week.
The failed truce heightened the possibility that Israel, which has mobilized 38,000 reservists, would send ground forces into Gaza. “Hamas leaves us no choice but to respond,” Netanyahu said at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “We will not stop until we have rid Israel of the threats.” Earlier he said if Hamas doesn’t accept the truce, “Israel will have the international legitimacy to broaden the military offensive.”
After the Israeli strikes resumed, the military sent warnings to civilians in northern Gaza “requesting that they evacuate their homes for their own safety,” the army said in a text message.
Gaza has been a frequent battleground since Israel ended a 38-year occupation in 2005, while maintaining along with Egypt curbs on the movement of people and goods. The cease-fire was meant to end the fiercest fighting between the sides since November 2012.
Israel’s benchmark TA-25 stock index rose 0.5 percent at 1:25 p.m. in Tel Aviv, even as a truce remained elusive. The shekel was little changed at 3.4092 to the dollar.
The government’s endorsement of the cease-fire generated criticism within the cabinet. Netanyahu fired Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon for attacking the truce, according to a text message from his office. Danon, a longtime critic within the prime minister’s Likud Party, called it a “humiliating, groveling” acceptance of failure on Netanyahu’s part.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman renewed his call to reoccupy Gaza and eject Hamas from the territory. “We need to complete this operation so the Israeli military has control over all of Gaza,” he said at a televised news conference. He didn’t say how long he thought Israel should remain there.
Shlomo Brom, a retired general, predicted Israel wouldn’t rush into a ground offensive. Political and military leaders “don’t really see the utility of a limited ground attack, and think the risks of a more wide-scale offensive outweigh the benefits,” Brom, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said by phone.
The latest Gaza violence flared after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed last month; Israel’s arrest of hundreds of members of Hamas, which it blamed for the crime; and the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian youth. Israel, the U.S. and European Union label Hamas a terrorist group.
Israeli planes have struck about 1,700 targets since last week and more than 1,250 rockets have been fired, the military said. They’ve reached deeper into Israel than ever before, about 80 miles (128 kilometers) north of Gaza.
‘Like a Trap’
The Egyptian plan called for a cease-fire yesterday followed 48 hours later by separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian delegations in Cairo. A provision said Gaza’s border crossings would be opened for both people and goods “once the security situation becomes stable on the ground.”
Hamas’s military wing called the proposal an “initiative of subordination and submission.” Hamas political spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said by phone that the group hadn’t officially “received any initiative from anyone” and rejected the concept of “ceasing fire before reaching an agreement.”
Egypt’s current administration, unlike the one that brokered the 2012 cease-fire, is hostile to Islamist movements.
“The Egyptian initiative, frankly, looks like a trap with respect to Hamas,” Michael Hanna, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, said by phone. “If they accepted the cease-fire terms, they would get no concessions and would look as if they were backing down. And if they rejected it they would be seen as scuttling attempts to de-escalate. It was absolutely designed that way.”
Hamas leaders say they seek an easing of border restrictions imposed by both Israel and Egypt.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Hamas for rejecting the proposal, and said “the Egyptians deserve the time and space to be able to try to make this initiative work.”