Israeli Child Killed by Gaza Mortar as Cease-Fire Hopes Recede

A four-year-old Israeli boy was killed by a mortar fired from the Gaza Strip today, creating another impediment for Egyptian efforts to mediate a new truce in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants.

The child was killed by a shell that landed near a kindergarten in a community close to the Gaza border, the Israeli army said in a text message. He was only the fourth civilian casualty in Israel since the conflict began six weeks ago, with most Gaza rockets landing in open areas or intercepted by the Iron Dome antimissile system.

At least 2,090 Palestinians have died from Israeli fire since the fighting broke out, many of them women and children, according to Gaza health officials. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have died in the fighting, the most since the 2006 war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia.

The latest in a series of Egypt-brokered truces unraveled Aug. 19, and since then about 400 rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israel, the army said. The rocket fire intensified after an Israeli strike yesterday killed three commanders in the armed wing of the Hamas Islamist movement that rules Gaza. Human-rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have condemned Israel’s policy of targeting militant leaders as extra-judicial executions.

An earlier Israeli air strike hit a home containing family members of Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif, whose fate is uncertain after conflicting reports over whether he survived the attack. Hamas executed 18 Palestinians today “after an investigation of several days was completed and they confessed they had collaborated with Israel,” the pro-Hamas news service al-Rai said. Israel, the U.S. and European Union consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

The Egypt-mediated talks had aimed at reaching a lasting accord addressing disputes unresolved by pacts ending two previous conflicts. Hamas has demanded an end to the blockade that Israel, citing security considerations, initiated after the group won Palestinian elections in 2006. Israel has sought assurances that militants won’t resume their rocket attacks and cross-border raids.

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