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Hamas Has Rejected a Cease-fire Extension and Resumed Attacks From Gaza

The bodies of at least 85 Palestinians have been recovered as US Secretary of State John Kerry attempts to bolster the détente.

by Liz Fields
Jul 26 2014, 2:10pm

Image via AP/Nasser Shiyoukhi

Hamas has resumed mortar attacks from Gaza after rejecting an Israeli-agreed proposal to extend the temporary humanitarian cease-fire to midnight, according to Israeli officials.

Despite earlier reports from local media that Hamas had conceded to the extension, the Israeli military said on Saturday evening that rockets had been launched into southern Israel's Eshkol region at the conclusion of the original agreement.

Hamas denied ever agreeing to an extension of the accord which expired at 8 PM, a spokesperson in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri is quoted as saying by Israel Radio's Gal Berger.

Both sides had abided by the terms of the agreed 12-hour US-brokered humanitarian cease-fire, which began on Saturday at 8 AM local time. But the renewed rocket attacks burst any hope of any further extensions.

The temporary truce took hold following US Secretary of State John Kerry's failed efforts to negotiate a weeklong armistice on Friday, in a broader effort to end the conflict that has left at least 1000 Palestinians and 40 Israelis dead since it began on July 8.

At least 85 Palestinians bodies have been pulled from the rubble of destroyed homes and missile targets across Gaza in the first few hours of the brief lull in fighting.

Medics recovered the bodies and transferred them to hospitals in north, central, and southern Gaza including Gaza City, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told the AFP.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) confirmed in a statement that it would abide by the terms of the cease-fire, but advised its troops would continue to "locate and neutralize tunnels in the Gaza Strip."

Israel's army has so far destroyed half of the 31 tunnels it has uncovered.

The IDF reported that it had "exposed over 30 tunnels used to attack Israelis" since starting its ground offensive in the strip. This footage shows the July 25 destruction of one tunnel.

The IDF had also warned all bets would be off should "terrorists choose to exploit" what they called "a humanitarian window" in the area, or fire at Israeli civilians or the army.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said all Palestinian factions had agreed to halt hostilities to open up the area to civilians to receive aid and move to safer ground.

As the truce took effect, and missile fire subsided, Palestinians rushed out of their homes, where some have been cooped up for days, to restock on food supplies and try to find their loved ones, either alive or dead.

"We lived through a night of horror. The shelling was all around our house," one resident, Hanan al-Zaanin, living in the heavy-hit Beit Hanoun neighborhood, told Reuters.

Speaking in the hours after Israel's Security Cabinet rejected the US' weeklong cease-fire proposal, Kerry expressed cautious optimism for a longer-term truce at a news conference in Cairo with UN head Ban Ki-Moon.

Israel and Hamas "still have some terminology" to agree on, Kerry said, but "gaps have been significantly narrowed."

Yet between the parties, a litany of unresolved demands remains.

Israel is adamant that any cease-fire must allow its military to continue to search for and destroy Hamas' subterranean tunnel network that it says serves as points of entry into Israel and as weapons bunkers, while Hamas wants the Israeli-Egyptian blockage of Gaza to end before any accord is reached.

"It can be achieved, if we work through some of the issues that are important for the parties," Kerry said.

In Photos: Israel Opens Fire on Largest West Bank Protest in a Decade

The US is spearheading broader international efforts to shape a workable deal between Israel and Hamas. On Saturday, Kerry met with his counterparts from Qatar, Turkey, and European Union countries in Paris to begin discussions.

As the violence in Gaza, which has so far wounded more than 5,700 Palestinians and displaced tens of thousands more, continued this week, protests erupted in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

At least two demonstrators were killed and 200 injured in clashes with police and soldiers on Thursday and Friday.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields

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