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Israel airstrikes continue, Egypt calls for resumption of negotiations

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Israeli airstrikes kill over 1,900 Palestinians as “Operation Protective Edge” enters its second month

Israeli airstrikes killed at least five Palestinians and injured dozens more on Saturday morning, as Israel recalled its delegation from Egypt on the second day since the 72-hour ceasefire ended.

The Israeli military confirmed in a statement that the military had struck 33 targets overnight, Palestinian News Agency, Ma’an reported. The IDF spokesperson stated these sites include “terror activity sites, command and control centres, and weapon storage facilities.”

Israel withdrew all its troops from Gaza at the beginning of the 72-hour truce on Tuesday, but has now retained forces along the border, Reuters reported.

Israel said it would not continue negotiations under fire. Azam Al- Ahmed, head of the Palestinian delegation in the Cairo negotiations, said the Palestinian delegation assured the Egyptian side that they will not leave Cairo until a final agreement is reached, state-owned MENA news agency reported.

Izzat Al-Resheq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said on Friday: “Until this moment, the Palestinian delegation has not received any Israeli response to its demands.”

He cited Al-Ahmed saying that Israel’s delayed response is the main reason the Cairo talks have not resulted in a long-lasting ceasefire.

Al-Resheq said on Israel’s refusal to continue negotiations: “The Zionist delegation is not negotiating on the basis that Saturday is a Jewish holiday but their army has not stopped striking Gaza.”

The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in an official statement that it felt “deep regret for the resumption of the military operation once again in the Gaza strip”.

On Thursday night, after not receiving any response to their ceasefire demands, Palestinian factions refused the extension of the ceasefire, but said they will continue negotiations.

“In light of the resumption of military operations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs renews its call for the necessity for self-restraint and the refraining from military escalation, as well as not targeting civilians. It also reassures its keenness to protect the unarmed Palestinian people and to stop the bloodshed of innocent people,” the ministry’s statement read.

The ministry claimed Egypt made “unremitting efforts” over the past few days in the ceasefire talks “to bring differing views closer together and to take care of indirect negotiations”.

It called for the immediate resumption of negotiations and demanded that “all parties live up to their responsibilities and commitment to the ruled of international humanitarian law”.

In an official statement released on Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki- Moon expressed “his deep disappointment that the parties were unable to agree to an extension of the ceasefire in their talks in Cairo,” and ”the renewed rocket fire towards Israel”. He also urged “the parties to swiftly find a way back to respect of the humanitarian ceasefire and to continue negotiations in Cairo to reach a durable ceasefire”.

Hamas officials accused Israel of “stalling and wasting time” and assured there has been no Israeli response to any of the Palestinian demands. Israel’s lack of response “prevented the extension of the ceasefire, the occupation bears responsibility for all consequences,” Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said on Friday evening.

Palestinian factions in Gaza, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, demanded that Israel end its eight-year siege on Gaza. They also demanded the release of Palestinians re-arrested after the 2011 Shalit exchange, allow a seaport and an airport to open in Gaza, and allow for a safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank.

Jihad Al-Harazeen, the media spokesperson for Fatah in Cairo, said: “Egypt has been playing a positive role in the [indirect] negotiations, helping end the bloodshed of the Palestinian people” and added that “no other state has moved the way Egypt has”.

Despite the role Egypt claims, it maintains its closure of the Rafah crossing, intensifying the Gaza siege. Since 3 July, the Egyptian continuously destroyed hundreds of tunnels connecting Gaza and Egypt, with the latest campaign on Saturday destroying at least 20 tunnels.

Ehab Al-Ghusain, the Gaza Ministry of Information undersecretary previously told Daily News Egypt that the Egyptian ceasefire initiative was “an initiative to secure the Israeli occupation more than anything else.”

Tzipi Livni, Israeli Justice Minister and member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said on television that Gaza militants “have to get hit in return, and not in the same proportion, but to a greater degree”, Reuters reported.

Abu Zuhri responded to Livni’s remarks that there is an alliance between Israel and Egypt to “throttle Hamas”. He added that the statements were “dirty and needed an Egyptian response”,

Israel, attacking by land, air, and sea, has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians in its Operation Protective Edge, which has lasted over a month. Palestinian rockets fired towards Israeli from Gaza have killed 66 Israelis, 64 soldiers, three civilians, and one Thai national.

“After four weeks of intense hostilities, the scale of needs is unprecedented in the Gaza Strip. Teams are on the ground assessing needs and providing relief …. [but] we need to rapidly scale-up our response to address the needs of the people in Gaza now and in the longer-term. But to do that, we need a sustained halt to the violence,” the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator James Rawley said on Thursday.

The number of internally displaced persons in UNRWA and government shelters declined to approximately 200,000 as many families returned to their homes during the latest ceasefire. The numbers are climbing once again, however, with the resumption of Israeli airstrikes, according to the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Gaza situation report.

According to UNRWA estimates, there are at least 65,000 residents in Gaza that have had their homes completely destroyed.

Meanwhile, UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness wrote on his Twitter account “UNRWA counsellors in Gaza [are] discovering psychological damage is more devastating than the physical [damage] and may outlive it.”

Over the 72-hour ceasefire, search and rescue operations continued locating bodies that could not have been reached previously due to continuous Israeli attacks, and other Palestinians died from their wounds. This resulted in an additional 53 fatalities recorded, the situation report said. On Saturday morning, Gunness said rescue and medical teams were still recovering bodies in Gaza with 32 new fatalities reported in the last day of the ceasefire.

In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces shot a 20-year-old Palestinian protester during a solidarity rally outside the settlement of Psagot on Friday, the Palestinian ambulance service told Ma’an.


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