GAZA CITY: Hundreds of Palestinians turned out yesterday for the funeral of the wife and son of the Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif, who were killed overnight in an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza City.
Hamas had urged Gazans to turn out in force for the funeral in Jabaliya refugee camp, after an attack which left at least one other Palestinian dead and injured a further 15 people. There were fears that there could be more bodies under the rubble.
Israel failed to assassinate the Hamas military commander, a spokesman said on the group’s Al Aqsa TV channel, a day after Mohammed Deif’s wife and son were killed in an air strike.
“The Zionist enemy failed to assassinate general commander Abu Khaled,” said the spokesman, using Deif’s nom de guerre, and dressed in fatigues with his face wrapped in a red and white headscarf. So far, 20 Gazans have been killed since last 24 hours, Palestinian medics say.
The bloodshed pushed to 2,038 the number of Gazans killed in six weeks of the most violent confrontation between Israel and Hamas militants since the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising (2000-2005).
Israel called up 2,000 reserves yesterday, a day after the breakdown of peace talks in Cairo that aimed to bring an end to a six-week war with Palestinian militants in Gaza. The Israel Defence Forces confirmed that Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers were at the Gaza border after 120 rockets were fired into Israel as the truce collapsed overnight. There is no indication yet whether Israel will launch a second ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources said 19 people had been killed in Israeli air strikes since Tuesday night, bring the Palestinian death toll during the war to 2,035, with more than 10,000 injured. A total of 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians — one of whom was a Thai national — have also died in the conflict.
Israel accused Hamas of violating the latest of a series of temporary ceasefires. It said three rockets were launched from Gaza on Tuesday evening and landed in an open area near the southern city of Be’er Sheva.
Iron Dome, Israel’s anti-missile defence system, was quickly reactivated and sirens sounded in the centre and south of the country, and bomb shelters within 50 miles of the Gaza border were reopened.
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation said no Palestinian militant group had claimed responsibility for firing the three rockets that broke the ceasefire.
The situation escalated quickly, with rockets fired from Gaza later targeting Jerusalem and Ben Gurion airport. Yesterday a direct hit was reported on a house near the southern city of Ashkelon, and Hamas claimed to have targeted for the first time an Israeli offshore platform off the Gazan coast.
An air strike in Gaza yesterday morning killed seven members of one family, including a woman and three children. The offices of the Hamas-affiliated Al Aqsa TV were hit in another of at least 60 air strikes following the breakdown of the ceasefire. Hundreds of civilians fled their homes for UN shelters.
Gaza had been relatively quiet for the previous eight days under two successive ceasefires that allowed negotiations to proceed. A third 24-hour ceasefire was agreed in Cairo late on Monday night and was due to expire at midnight on Tuesday.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered his negotiating team to leave talks on Tuesday evening. “The Cairo talks were based on an agreed premise of a total cessation of hostilities,” said the Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.
“When Hamas breaks the ceasefire they also break the premise for the Cairo talks. Accordingly the Israeli team has been called back as a result of today’s rocket fire.” It is not clear whether the team will return.
Palestinian negotiators also left Cairo, blaming Israel for the talks’ failure. “Israel thwarted the contacts that could have brought peace,” said the chief Palestinian negotiator, Azzam Al Ahmed.
The Palestinians had presented a final set of demands, he said, but Israel was “trying to impose what they want. This is impossible for us as Palestinians to accept that ? the process of procrastination and stalling continues.”
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, issued a statement condemning the breakdown of the ceasefire, adding that he was “gravely disappointed by the return to hostilities”. He urged the sides not to allow matters to escalate.
The negotiations in Cairo have struggled to secure a long-term deal to end the conflict as both sides have sought a formula that would allow them to declare positive results from the war.
According to leaks, an outline agreement proposed by Egyptian mediators included the opening of crossings between Israel and Gaza, the import of construction materials under international supervision and the expansion of the permitted fishing zone to 12 miles over a period of six months.