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Hamas fires rockets on Israel, ending 12-hour lull


By KARIN LAUB and IAN DEITCH

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip (AP) - Hamas said it fired five rockets at Israel late Saturday after rejecting Israel's offer to extend a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire by four hours, casting new doubt on international efforts to broker an end to 19 days of fighting.

Hamas said two of the rockets were aimed at Tel Aviv. Police in Israel's second-largest city dispersed a peace rally attended by several thousand people because of the threat, a spokesman said.

In Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign ministers met earlier Saturday to find ways to transform Saturday's initial 12-hour lull into a sustainable truce.

In Gaza, thousands of residents who fled the violence streamed back to devastated border areas during the cease-fire to find large-scale destruction: fighting had pulverized scores of homes, wreckage blocked roads and power cables dangled in the streets.

In the northern town of Beit Hanoun, Siham Kafarneh, 37, sat on the steps of a small grocery, weeping. The mother of eight said the home she had spent 10 years saving up for and moved into two months earlier had been destroyed.

"Nothing is left. Everything I have is gone," she said.

More than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed and more than 6,000 have been wounded over the past 19 days, Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.

Across Gaza, more than 130 bodies were pulled from the rubble Saturday, officials said. In southern Gaza, 20 members of an extended family were killed before the start of the lull when a tank shell hit a building where they had sought refuge, al-Kidra said.

Israel says it is doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, including sending evacuation warnings to residents in targeted areas, and blames Hamas for putting civilians in harm's way. Israel has lost 40 soldiers and two civilians, and a Thai worker also has been killed.

"There is no proof that any kind of gratuitous damage is being inflicted," said Israeli legislator Ofer Shelah of the centrist Yesh Atid party. Israeli troops are "fighting with an enemy dug in within the civilian population, dug in underground or within the houses there," he said, adding that "those are the consequences of such a fight."

Israel launched a major air campaign in Gaza on July 8 and later sent ground troops into the Hamas-ruled territory in an operation it said was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire and destroying cross-border tunnels used for attacks.

Later Saturday, Israel decided to extend the 12-hour lull by four more hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Saturday. However, Israel set its own terms for the extended truce, saying it would continue to demolish Hamas military tunnels.

The Israeli military said that through Saturday's lull, troops uncovered four more tunnel shafts.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri later said that the group rejected the four-hour extension. Shortly after that, Hamas claimed responsibility for firing five rockets at Israel, including two at Tel Aviv. The Israeli military said three rockets fell in southern Israel.

Al-Kidra said that a 36-year-old Palestinian man was killed by a sniper near the central Gaza town of Deir el-Balah shortly after the 12-hour truce ended.

In Paris, Kerry met with European foreign ministers and later with foreign ministers from Qatar and Turkey to try to salvage truce efforts.

On Friday, Israel rejected a proposal by Kerry and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to halt fire for a week and to begin talks during this period on easing the border blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Hamas has said it would not halt fire until it won guarantees that the border blockade, enforced by Israel and Egypt, would be lifted.

Any new border arrangements for Gaza would likely give a role to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the main political rival of Hamas.

Hamas had seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, triggering the Gaza blockade by Israel and Egypt. However, Abbas, who heads the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, reached a power-sharing deal earlier this year with Hamas. Under the deal, a government of technocrats headed by Abbas was to prepare for new elections in the West Bank and Gaza.

Egypt wants forces loyal to Abbas to be posted on the Gaza side of the mutual border before considering open the Rafah crossing there, Gaza's main gate to the world.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in Paris that he and his counterparts from other nations are calling on both sides to negotiate a sustainable cease-fire.

Such a truce should meet Israeli security concerns, but also "the Palestinians' expectations in terms of economic development and access to Gaza," he said. "We are convinced of the need to involve the Palestinian Authority in achieving these objectives."

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frankiegallo33 July 26 2014 at 5:56 PM

I tried to tell you. Don't trust Kerry, Obama or Valerie Jarrett who pulls their strings.
They only want to strengthen Iran by weakening Israel.
Tell Kerry to go F himself.
Obama has proved that even America can't trust him. He's a pathological liar.

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39 replies
rdh32khlll July 26 2014 at 5:57 PM

Israel should show no mercy on their enemy.

Let all hell break lose.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
7 replies
amosesjr July 26 2014 at 5:54 PM

Cease fires are a waste of time. War is f'n war, and the terrorists only agree to cease fires when they NEED them. The fact that they ALWAYS throw the first punch after a cease fire is proof enough to me.

Flag Reply +98 rate up
8 replies
fishhead80 July 26 2014 at 5:58 PM

Obama & Kerry will get you killed!
Defend yourself & don't believe a word they say.

Flag Reply +92 rate up
17 replies
rwatson322 July 26 2014 at 5:54 PM

If it were me, I would bulldoze Gaza...Period!

Flag Reply +84 rate up
8 replies
rdh32khlll July 26 2014 at 5:59 PM

If the blockade is the problem, why doesn't Hamas fire onto Egypt as well?

Fact is, the blockade is not the reason they are firing on Israel.

Flag Reply +68 rate up
8 replies
bd2thebone July 26 2014 at 5:59 PM

Maybe Kerry could offer them 2 years free Obamacare to get the deal done.

Flag Reply +64 rate up
21 replies
Dawn July 26 2014 at 6:00 PM

Oh yeah...and once again it'll be
Israel's fault.

Flag Reply +53 rate up
6 replies
biffcove July 26 2014 at 5:53 PM

I'm sure there were alot of people that really thought they woukd keep thier word!! Poor fools !

Flag Reply +45 rate up
7 replies
charlie11niner July 26 2014 at 7:31 PM

This flop eared, idiot, Muslim president we have supports all these evil radical groups with his mouth, actions and our tax dollars.. Kerry is a turncoat ex-Viet Nam Vet who's way out of his job description.
The peace loving people of Gaza need to turn on these Hamas Cowards who hide behind their Women and Children and all this carnage would end. They consistantly draw first blood then cry a river about deaths in Gaza --- DUH !!! Utter stupidity !!!

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6 replies
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