GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel unleashed its heaviest air and artillery assault of the Gaza war on Tuesday, destroying key symbols of Hamas control, shutting down the territory's only power plant and leaving at least 128 Palestinians dead on the bloodiest day of the 22-day conflict.
Despite devastating blows that left the packed territory's 1.7 million people cut off from power and water and sent the overall death toll soaring past 1,200, Hamas' shadowy military leader remained defiant as he insisted that the Islamic militants would not cease fire until its demands are met.
The comments by Mohammed Deif in an audiotape broadcast on a Hamas satellite TV channel cast new doubt on international cease-fire efforts. Aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Egypt was trying to bring Israeli and Palestinian delegations together in Cairo for new talks in which Hamas would be presented this time as part of the Palestinian team.
Israel's final objective in Gaza remained unclear a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israelis to be prepared for a "prolonged" war.
Netanyahu is under pressure from hawkish members of his coalition to topple Hamas in an all-out offensive, but has not let on whether he plans to go beyond destroying Hamas rocket launchers, weapons depots and military tunnels used to infiltrate Israel and smuggle weapons.
Dozens of Israeli airstrikes and heavy tank shelling hit areas across Gaza, which was plunged into complete darkness Tuesday night after a strike on its sole power plant set a fuel tank ablaze.
In the sprawling Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, at least 24 people — 10 of them from the same family — were killed and dozens wounded in a barrage of tank fire, Hamas health officials said.
"Tanks were firing in all directions and shrapnel was flying," said Moussa al-Mabhouh, a volunteer for Gaza's Civil Defense. "Smoke was rising from houses and from nearby workshops."
In one incident, shrapnel from a strike in Jebaliya hit near a car with U.N. markings, killing an employee of a U.N. aid agency and his brother, and wounding the man's 12-year-old son, said agency spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna.
The Israeli military has said it is targeting Hamas command centers, along with rocket launchers and weapons arsenals, but has not provided explanations when asked about specific strikes in which many members of a single family were killed.
On Tuesday, multiple members of at least five families were pulled from the rubble after airstrikes and tank shells struck their homes, including the mayor of the Bureij refugee camp, his 70-year-old father and three relatives, according to Palestinian health officials.
In all, at least 1,229 Palestinians have been killed, including 128 on Tuesday, making it the single deadliest day since the start of fighting on July 8, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra. More than 7,000 have been wounded, he said.
Israel says it has lost 53 soldiers, along with two Israeli civilians and a Thai national.
Despite the heavy Palestinian losses, Deif, the commander of the Hamas military wing, said fighting would continue. "There is not going to be a cease-fire as long as the demands of our people are not fulfilled," he said.
Hamas has demanded that Israel and Egypt lift a border blockade they imposed on Gaza after Hamas seized the territory in 2007. Over the past year, Egypt has further tightened restrictions, shutting down hundreds of smuggling tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border that had provide crucial tax income to Hamas. The closure of the tunnels drove Hamas into a severe financial crisis.
Deif's voice was recognizable in the audio statement on Al-Aqsa TV. He has survived repeated Israeli assassination attempts and has operated from hiding for years.
Al-Aqsa also broadcast a videotape it said showed an infiltration by Hamas fighters into Israel on Monday through a border tunnel. The footage showed armed Palestinians climbing out of a hole in the ground and attacking an Israeli guard post near the border. They were then seen fleeing back down the hole.
The Israeli military said Hamas infiltrated Israeli territory near a communal farm and killed five soldiers on guard nearby. A Hamas gunman was also killed in the attack. Israeli media reported a soldier shot and killed him while he was dragging one of the bodies back to the tunnel.
The military said Palestinian militants fired at least 64 rockets Tuesday at Israeli cities.
Israel has said its troops will not leave Gaza until they have demolished the sophisticated network of Hamas attack tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border and inflicted major damage on the group's arsenal and rocket launchers.
Meanwhile, the miserable living condition of Gaza's 1.7 million people deteriorated even further after two Israeli tank shells struck one of three fuel tanks of Gaza's only power plant. The hit set off a massive fire, and a column of thick putrid smoke rose from the site for hours.
"We need at least one year to repair the power plant, the turbines, the fuel tanks and the control room," said Fathi Sheik Khalil of the Gaza Energy Authority. "Everything was burned."
The shutdown meant that Gaza has an 80 percent deficit of electricity, said Sari Bashi of the Israeli rights group Gisha. Widespread power outages also disrupt water supplies because electricity is needed to operate water pumps. In Gaza, about 1.2 million have no access to running water, she said.
Maher Salem of the utilities department in the Gaza City municipality said about 600,000 of the city's 800,000 residents were facing water problems.
"But the most catastrophic issue for us, which is the ticking bomb, is that once we have run out of fuel (for back-up generators), we have to shut down the waste water treatment," he said, adding that fuel would last up to four more days.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Obama administration urges "all parties to respect the civilian nature of these facilities." The Israeli military has not commented on the shelling of the power plant.
Earlier Tuesday, Israeli warplanes carried out dozens of attacks, leveling the home of the top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and damaging the offices of the movement's Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, a central mosque in Gaza City and government offices.
Haniyeh's house, in a narrow alley of the Shati refugee camp, was reduced to rubble but no one was hurt. Residents placed a large framed portrait of Haniyeh atop the wreckage and draped it with green Hamas flags and Palestinian national banners.
Israel has targeted several homes of Hamas leaders but so far none has been killed. Haniyeh said in a statement Tuesday that "destroying stones will not break our determination."
Meanwhile, two aides to Abbas said the Palestinian leader and the top Hamas official in exile, Khaled Mashaal, are trying to put together a joint delegation that would present Palestinian demands in future cease-fire talks in Cairo.
Abbas and Hamas are former bitter rivals, but took a step toward reconciliation earlier this year when Hamas ceded some power to a technocrat government headed by Abbas.
Egypt has expressed willingness to host indirect talks, but has said the two sides must observe a humanitarian truce of unspecified duration before talks can begin, said the two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations with the media.
___Alhlou reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Ian Deitch in Jerusalem and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
The White House on Friday urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks and do what they can to protect civilians after Egyptian-mediated negotiations failed to extend a ceasefire and rocket fire resumed.
"The United States is very concerned about today's developments in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
"We condemn the renewed rocket fire and we are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides of that conflict," he said.
Five Palestinians, including a 10-year-old boy, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since a ceasefire fell apart on Friday, a Palestinian medical official reported to Agence France Presse.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army said Palestinian militants fired 35 rockets into Israel on Friday, injuring a soldier and a civilian.
The father of a ten-year old Palestinian boy, who was killed in an Israeli air strike on the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in northern Gaza City, mourns at the city's Al-Shifa hospital, on August 8, 2014. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian factions will remain in Cairo and press on with Egyptian-mediated talks despite the end of the ceasefire in Gaza, the head of the delegation, Fatah official Azzam Ahmed, said on Friday.
"We are not for escalation. We are ready to continue through our Egyptian brothers in negotiating to reach a final agreement that would return the rights to their owners," Ahmed said. "I mean here lifting the blockade of Gaza."
Ahmed said Palestinian negotiators were due to meet Egyptian intelligence officials, who have been mediating the talks, later in the day. He said Palestinian factions were united in their decision not to extend the 72-hour truce that ended at 0500 GMT and had been clear about their basic demands to end the conflict.
Egypt called on Friday for an immediate resumption of the ceasefire in Gaza and a return to the negotiating table, saying that only a few outstanding issues remained in negotiations it was mediating between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The foreign ministry calls on all sides to rise to their responsibilities ... and to return immediately to the ceasefire commitment and exploit the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
BREAKING: Israel says it's resumed strikes on Gaza in response to rocket fire, after end of 3-day truce.
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 8, 2014
A 72-hour cease-fire expired at 8 a.m. today, and not long after, Gaza militants began firing rockets at Israel, The Associated Press reported.
The Israeli military said at least 10 rockets had been fired at Israel since the truce ended. Prior to the attacks, a senior official for Hamas said the militant groups would not extend the cease-fire.
For more, click here.
Israel has conditionally agreed to extend a ceasefire that ended a month of fighting in Gaza beyond a Friday deadline, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official did not say for how much longer Israel had agreed to extend the truce, only that: "Israel has expressed its readiness to extend the truce under its current terms," referring to the deal brokered by Egypt that took effect on Tuesday.
Hamas had no immediate comment.
IDF confirms rocket sirens in southern Israel were false alarm http://t.co/QN677jtlXE
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) August 6, 2014
ABC Foreign Editor Jon Williams reports that the IDF have confirmed the rocket sirens are sounding, but are checking to see if it is a false alarm.
— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) August 6, 2014
Reuters reports that Israel has arrested one of the suspects in the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June.
Hussam Kawasme, a 40-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested on July 11 in connection with the killing of Israelis Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, who went missing on June 12 and were discovered dead a couple of weeks later.
Their kidnapping sparked a cycle of violence that led to the month-long conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
Kawasme's arrest was made public for the first time on Tuesday in a document from an Israeli court case over whether houses belonging to him and two other suspects - who remain at large - should be destroyed as a punitive measure.
The lawyers listed as representing Kawasme were not reachable for comment.
The court document said Kawasme had admitted to helping to organize the kidnapping - securing funding from the Hamas Islamist group in Gaza and purchasing weapons which he passed on to the two other suspects who carried out the attack.
Kawasme also helped to bury the bodies of the teenagers in a plot of land he had bought a few months earlier, it said.
Israel has named the other two suspects in the case as Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha.
India's NDTV has released footage that appears to show three Palestinian militants setting up a rocket launching site in a crowded area of Gaza. The rarity of the video is remarkable, as militants in the enclave are notoriously covert in their launching operations.
NDTV journalist Sreenivasan Jain describes the scene from his neighboring balcony, narrating as blurred figures move in and out of the suspected rocket site.
Read more here.
In an interview with HuffPost UK, former British Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi explained why she dramatically quit the government on Tuesday.
Speaking exclusively to The Huffington Post UK in her first interview since resigning on Tuesday morning, the Tory peer accused the coalition of failing to act as an "honest broker" in the Middle East and called for an immediate arms embargo against Israel.
"The British government can only play a constructive role in solving the Middle East crisis if it is an honest broker," the former Foreign Office minister said, "and at the moment I do not think it is."
Read the full story here.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Jordan has circulated a revised U.N. resolution calling for a durable cease-fire in the Gaza war and condemning "all violence and hostilities against civilians."
Jordan's new U.N. Ambassador Dina Kawar said the draft resolution was submitted to the Security Council on Tuesday in a form that could be put to a vote.
"We are in consultation with all council members and we hope by the next day or two that we come with a product," she said.
The draft resolution calls for "the sustained reopening" of crossing points into Gaza and calls on the U.N. to establish a mechanism to monitor implementation of a cease-fire agreement.
It makes no mention of Hamas or its rocketing of Israel and is likely to face an uphill struggle winning U.S. approval.
Agence France Presse reports on an initial assessment of the cost of damage to the Gaza Strip after weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Palestinian deputy economy minister Taysir Amro said "direct damages" will cost Gaza at least -6 billion in damage, and that the number will rise once further assessment of the full scale of damage is possible, according to the news agency.
Read the full story here.
People are beginning to leave UNRWA shelters in #Gaza. 4 the 1st time there is a slight decrease in numbers: 267,970 in 90 UNRWA shelters RT
— Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) August 5, 2014
Our concern is that people r leaving UNRWA shelters in #Gaza & returning 2 damaged & dangerous homes. Many homes feared destroyed RT
— Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) August 5, 2014
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said there was "clear evidence" of war crimes by Israel during its offensive in Gaza as he met International Criminal Court prosecutors on Tuesday to push for an investigation.
Malki visited The Hague shortly after Israel and the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza entered a 72-hour truce mediated by Egypt in an effort to pave the way for an extended ceasefire.
Malki said the Palestinian Authority wanted to give the ICC jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes by all sides and had discussed a timeline with prosecutors to join the court. He did not provide details.
Shajaiyah in Gaza. Staggering level of destruction. Families having to rebuild....again. pic.twitter.com/fGfykUwA4K
— Jon Donnison (@JonDonnison) August 5, 2014
Sayeeda Warsi, senior minister of state at the British Foreign Office, has tendered her resignation because she can "no longer support" the country's policy on Gaza, BBC News reported.
Warsi took to Twitter to confirm the news:
With deep regret I have this morning written to the Prime Minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza
— Sayeeda Warsi (@SayeedaWarsi) August 5, 2014
Click here for more.
BREAKING: 3-day truce between Israel, Hamas takes effect, sets stage for talks on sustainable cease-fire
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 5, 2014
BREAKING: Israeli military: All forces will have withdrawn from Gaza by start of cease-fire at 8 a.m.
— The Associated Press (@AP) August 5, 2014
A spokesman for Hamas told Reuters that the Islamist group also agrees to a Egyptian ceasefire proposal.
"Hamas told Egypt a short while ago of its acceptance of a 72-hour period of calm," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.
An Israeli official says Israel has agreed to a temporary Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, Reuters reports.
#BREAKING: Israel agrees to Egyptian ceasefire proposal: Israeli official
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 4, 2014
Egypt is urging senior Israeli and Palestinian delegations to join in talks on a permanent ceasefire for Gaza in the Egyptian capital, Reuters reports. Cairo also calls on Palestinians and Israelis to accept a proposal for a 72-hour ceasefire that would start tomorrow morning.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that the Palestinian factions have agreed to an Egyptian proposal for a 72-hour ceasefire that would start tomorrow morning. While Palestinians officials have said Israel agreed to the truce as well, there is no official response from the Israeli government yet.
Read more here.
Egypt, Hamas, PIJ and the Palestinian authority all confirm Gaza ceasefire tomorrow morning. The Israeli government says silent
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) August 4, 2014
— Derek Stoffel (@DerekStoffelCBC) August 4, 2014
Britain is investigating the possible death of one of its citizens in Gaza, Reuters reports on Monday. The country's Foreign Office said it had received reports a British national was killed in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday.
(Reuters) - Britain is "urgently" investigating reports that a British national was killed in Gaza over the weekend, a spokesman for the British government said on Monday.
Britain sought to establish the man's fate as a brief Israeli truce to allow aid to reach Palestinians ended amid accusations of strikes by both sides, while Jerusalem was rocked by two attacks that appeared to be a backlash against the war in Gaza.
Citing friends of the man, British media reported that an aid worker from Rochdale in northern England had been killed on Sunday during an Israeli strike on Rafah while he was delivering supplies for a hospital.
"We are aware of the reports of the death of a British national in Rafah and are urgently looking into them," a spokesman for the Foreign Office said.
#BREAKING Israel says it has destroyed all known Gaza tunnels
— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) August 4, 2014
The number of displaced Palestinians seeking shelter at UN facilities has topped 270,000.
BREAKING: The number of displaced Palestinian civilians in our shelters has risen to 272,987. Our 90 shelters average 3,033 people each.
— UNRWA (@UNRWA) August 4, 2014
A spokesperson for the Israeli army reportedly told Agence France Presse that Israel is resuming its airstrikes in Gaza.
— Julia Macfarlane (@juliamacfarlane) August 4, 2014
In a statement released on Monday, Human Rights Watch accused Israeli troops of having opened fire and killing several fleeing civilians in the town of Khuza'a in southern Gaza. The international human rights group says the incidents took place between July 23 and July 25.
Human Rights Watch investigated several incidents between July 23 and 25 when, local residents said, Israeli forces opened fire on civilians trying to flee Khuza’a, but no Palestinian fighters were present at the time and no firefights were taking place.
On the morning of July 23, Israeli forces ordered a group of about 100 Palestinians in Khuza’a to leave a home in which they had gathered to take shelter, family members said. The first member to leave the house, Shahid al-Najjar, had his hands up but an Israeli soldier shot him in the jaw, seriously injuring him.
Israeli soldiers detained the men and boys over age 15 in an area close to the Gaza perimeter fence. Based on statements from witnesses and news reports, some were taken to Israel for questioning. Israeli forces released others that day, in small separate groups. As one group walked unarmed to Khan Younis, Israeli soldiers fired on them, killing one and wounding two others.
Read the briefing here.
A gunmen opened fire near Jerusalem's Hebrew University, hitting a soldier in the stomach. It was the second incident in the Israeli capital this morning. Earlier, a man drove a construction vehicle into a bus.
According to a preliminary investigation of the Mt. Scopus incident, a man dressed in black shot a 20-year-old soldier in the stomach, wounding him seriously, got on a motorcycle that was waiting for him and fled the scene. A security guard standing nearby shot at the suspect, but failed to hit him. Security forces are attempting to apprehend the attacker.
Read the full story here.