Hamas claims Israel stalling Gaza truce

2012-11-20 23:02
An Israeli illumination round is seen along the Israel and Gaza borders as it lights the sky east of Gaza City. (Hatem Moussa, AP)

An Israeli illumination round is seen along the Israel and Gaza borders as it lights the sky east of Gaza City. (Hatem Moussa, AP)

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Cairo - A Hamas official said on Tuesday that Egyptian efforts to broker a truce with Israel had been held up because the Israeli government had yet to respond to proposals, indicating there would be no ceasefire until Wednesday at the earliest.

"The Israeli side has not responded yet, so we will not hold a [news] conference this evening and must wait until tomorrow," Ezzat al-Rishq, a senior Hamas leader, told Reuters after Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi, the main mediator, had said he expected a deal within hours.

"The truce is now held up because we are waiting for the Israeli side to respond," he added in a short telephone interview.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has arrived in Israel on an emergency visit to help end a week of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants.

Clinton touched down late on Tuesday and was headed to Jerusalem for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid mixed signs about the prospects of a ceasefire.

Clinton was hastily dispatched to the Middle East earlier in the day while on a visit with President Barack Obama to Asia.

Jornalists targeted

AP reported that Israeli airstrikes killed three Palestinian journalists in their cars on Tuesday, a Gaza health official and the head of the Hamas-run Al Aqsa TV said.

Israel acknowledged targeting the men, claiming they had ties to militants.

A number of journalists have been killed over the years while covering fighting between the Jewish state and the Palestinian militant group, but not in targeted strikes Israel acknowledged.

Two of those killed were cameramen working for Al Aqsa TV, the centerpiece of a growing Hamas media empire, said station head Mohammed Thouraya.

The two were driving in a car with press markings in Gaza City on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after wrapping up an assignment at the city's Shifa Hospital, Thouraya added.

The station said the car was hit by a missile, broadcasting the aftermath with the vehicle consumed by flames.

Thouraya said the bodies of the two, Mohammed al-Koumi and Hussam Salam, were badly burned.

Later on Tuesday, another Israeli missile killed an employee for Al Quds Educational Radio, a private station, said Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health official.

Mohammed Abu Eisha died when his car was hit in the central Gaza town of Deir el-Balah, al-Kidra said.

Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said a preliminary investigation showed all three were Hamas operatives, but he would not elaborate.

Israel has struck a wide range of Hamas-linked targets during its offensive, including rocket launching sites and the homes of suspected activists, killing more than 120 people.

Asked whether Israel had widened it range of targets to include journalists working for media run by Hamas or other militant groups, Leibovich said: "The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity."

Thouraya denied that the two employees killed Tuesday were linked to violence.

"Our crew were fighters, but they were not fighting with weapons," he said. "They were fighting with their cameras. They were on the battlefield to defend the people by filming the awful crimes [of the Israeli offensive] and broadcasting them to the world."

Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev alleged that both Al Aqsa and Al Quds "are integral parts of terrorist military organisations".

He said those working for the two outlets "are not journalists by any meaning of the word".

More than 1 300 rockets fired

An Israeli soldier and a civilian were killed by Gaza rockets and an Iranian-built Fajr 5 scored a direct hit on a residential building in greater Tel Aviv causing major damage, AFP reported officials as saying.

The two Israelis who died on Tuesday raised to five the total number of people killed by rockets in southern Israel since the bloodshed began on 14 November.

And the Fajr 5 which struck an eight-storey residential building in Rishon Letzion marked the first time a longer-range rocket fired from Gaza had struck a populated area in metropolitan Tel Aviv, police said.

Police said only two people had been lightly injured in the strike which hit Rishon LeTzion some 50km north of the Gaza Strip.

"There is extensive damage to an eight storey-building in Rishon Letzion which sustained a direct hit from a rocket," police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said, noting the damage extended "within a 200m radius of the building".

He said two people had been lightly hurt in the strike, saying most of the people had managed to find safety when the air raid sirens sounded.

The attack was claimed by Hamas militants from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, who said they were responsible for the firing of the Fajr 5 rocket, and posted pictures of the building on their official Twitter feed.

Several hours later, the military announced that a soldier had been killed by rocket fire from Gaza during the morning.

In a statement, the military said 18-year-old Yosef Fartuk from the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel had been killed during the morning in the Eshkol regional council, which flanks the southern part of the Israel-Gaza border.

Shortly afterwards, a defence ministry spokesperson confirmed that Alayaan Salem al-Nabari, a Bedouin civilian, had been killed by a separate rocket.

The spokesperson said that Nabari had been "employed by a firm that worked for the defence ministry for many years."

Tuesday's deaths raise to five the number of Israelis killed by Gaza rocket fire after three other people - two men and a woman - were killed in a strike on a house in Kiryat Malachi on 16 November.

Since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defence, the army says that 1 382 rockets fired from Gaza have struck Israel, with another 389 intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Of that number, 138 rockets hit Israel on Tuesday, killing the two Israelis. Another 51 were intercepted by Iron Dome, the military said.

Since November 14, Israel's emergency services said it had treated 37 people injured directly by rocket fire, including three who were seriously hurt, four moderately and 27 lightly.

And another 55 people were treated for light injuries while running for cover during alerts, a spokesperson said.

- News24
Read more on:    hamas  |  israel  |  palestine  |  middle east peace
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