A rocket fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip hit a southern Israeli city as a temporary cease-fire came to an end.
The Israeli military said a rocket struck Ashkelon at precisely 3 p.m., when the five-hour pause in military activity officially ended. The truce was called for by the United Nations to allow civilians to resupply provisions.
Hamas spokesman in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters there’s been no progress on reaching a permanent cease-fire. He spoke after conflicting reports that a long-term truce would go into effect tomorrow. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor was quoted by the BBC as saying the reports were incorrect.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday indicated a ground invasion was still being considered, just months after U.S.-sponsored peace talks broke down. Israel’s Channel 10 said Israeli officials were meeting with Egyptian and Palestinian teams in Cairo to seek ways to achieve an end to the fighting, which is in its 10th day and has left one Israeli and at least 227 Palestinians dead as of early today.
The UN temporary cease-fire proposal came after four boys aged between eight and 11 years old were killed by Israeli fire on a Gaza beach, according to Gaza Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Qedra. Israel’s military said the deaths appeared to be the “tragic outcome” of a strike targeting Hamas militants.
Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for launching rockets after that ceasefire ended.
Israel Radio said Netanyahu’s government has authorized the mobilization of 8,000 more reservists on top of 41,000 already called up. Officials declined to confirm the report.
Netanyahu also said his top mission is to rid the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip of its weapons and end rocket attacks. He also said Hamas carries sole responsibility for continued violence after rejecting the Egyptian truce plan Israel accepted briefly before resuming air strikes amid a hail of rocket fire on its communities from Gaza.
“The most important thing vis-a-vis Gaza is to ensure that Gaza is demilitarized,” Netanyahu said at a televised news conference.
A few hours before today’s temporary cease-fire was due to go into effect, Israel foiled an attempt by 13 Gaza militants to cross the border into Israeli territory through a tunnel, military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said in a briefing today. Israeli aircraft fired at the group, killing at least one of the fighters, while the others returned to Gaza using the tunnel, he said.
Israel has clashed with Gaza militants repeatedly since ending a 38-year occupation in 2005, while curbing the movement of people and goods through control of shared border crossings.
The latest violence flared after three Israeli teenagers were killed last month; Israel’s arrest of hundreds of members of Hamas, which it blames for the crime; and the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian youth. Israel, the U.S. and European Union consider Hamas a terrorist group.
Israeli planes have struck about 1,900 targets since last week and Hamas has fired more than 1,361 rockets, the military said.
Israel’s benchmark TA-25 index was unchanged at 4:15 p.m. in Tel Aviv today. The shekel strengthened 0.1 percent to the dollar.
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.
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