AFP — Hamas said Wednesday that an Israeli air strike killed the wife and child of its Gaza military chief, as a temporary ceasefire went up in smoke and Cairo truce talks froze.
“The wife of the great leader was martyred with his daughter,” in a strike Tuesday night, Hamas’s exiled deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk wrote on Facebook while saying nothing about the fate of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades commander Mohammed Deif himself.
The Israeli military said it hit “more than 25 targets” in Gaza Tuesday but would not elaborate.
Tuesday’s deaths of the woman and a two-year-old girl were the first as a result of Israeli air raids in Gaza since August 10.
More than a month of fighting between Israel and Hamas has killed at least 2,020 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. Israel says 750-1,000 of the dead are Hamas and other gunmen. It also blames Hamas for all civilian fatalities, since Hamas set up its rocket-launchers, tunnel openings and other elements of its war machine in Gaza neighborhoods and uses Gazans as “human shields.”
Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians in the fighting. Eleven of the soldiers were killed by Hamas gunmen emerging from cross-border tunnels dug under the Israeli border. Hamas has fired over 3,000 rockets at Israel, including some 600 from close to schools, mosques and other civilian facilities, the Israeli army says.
Hamas’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, said Israel had “opened the gates of hell on itself” by the killings and warned that the Jewish state would “pay the price for its crimes.”
Another eight people were hurt in earlier air raids across the strip, the emergency services said.
A 24-hour truce due to last until midnight (2100 GMT) collapsed in late Tuesday afternoon, with a resumption of rocket fire from Gaza.
The al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement that it fired 34 rockets into Israel throughout Tuesday, hitting Tel Aviv and the southern city of Beersheba.
An Israeli military statement put the number fired at “about 50” but reported no casualties.
“A rocket hit an open area in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area,” it said and confirmed that two rockets landed near Beersheba, which is home to around 200,000 Israelis.
Air raid sirens were also heard in Jerusalem, with Hamas claiming a rocket attack on the city.
Police said it appeared that a rocket fell on empty ground in the West Bank, outside Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a new round of air strikes on Gaza and recalled his negotiators from Egyptian-mediated ceasefire talks in Cairo.
“The rocket fire which broke the ceasefire also destroyed the foundation on which the talks in Cairo were based,” Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told AFP early Wednesday.
“The Egyptian initiative is based on a total and unconditional cessation of hostilities, which was clearly broken when rockets were fired into Israel.”
‘Ceasefire has broken down’
Palestinian delegation head Azzam al-Ahmad said that his team would leave Cairo on Wednesday.
“We are leaving…but we have not pulled out of negotiations,” he told AFP, adding the Palestinians were waiting for Israel to respond to their truce proposal.
“We will not come back (to Cairo) until Israel responds,” he said.
The fighting shattered nine days of relative quiet in the skies over Gaza.
A senior Hamas official, Ezzat al-Rishq, warned Israel it would “not enjoy security so long as the Palestinian people do not”.
But Israel’s US ally put the blame squarely on the group itself.
“Hamas has security responsibility for Gaza… Rocket fire came from Gaza,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
“As of right now, with today’s developments, we are very concerned and it is our understanding the ceasefire has broken down.”
The renewal of Israeli air strikes spread panic among Gaza residents.
An AFP reporter saw hundreds of Palestinians streaming out of Shejaiya, an eastern area of Gaza City which has been devastated by more than a month of fighting between Israel and the militant Islamist Hamas movement.
More poured out of the Zeitun and Shaaf areas, alarmed by a series of explosions and heading to shelter in UN schools, local witnesses said.
Bomb shelters opened in Israel
In Israel the army said that it ordered that public bomb shelters within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of the Gaza border, be opened ready for use.
That includes Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Israel has vowed not to negotiate under fire, and Netanyahu has pledged “a very strong response” to any resumption of rocket attacks.
The Cairo talks center on an Egyptian proposal that meets some Palestinian demands, such as easing Israel’s eight-year blockade on Gaza, but puts off debate on other thorny issues until later.
Amnesty International renewed an appeal for access to Gaza.
“Valuable time has already been lost,” it said.
Hamas had repeatedly warned it would not extend the latest temporary ceasefire, pressing for immediate gains that would allow it to claim concessions from Israel after the devastating war which began on July 8.
Egypt’s proposal calls for both sides to immediately stop shooting and includes provisions relating to opening the borders to allow for free movement of people, goods and construction materials, as well as a clause on regulating the economic crisis within the impoverished enclave.
But crucially, it postpones discussions on issues such as a port and airport for another month, until “after calm and stability returns,” along with talks over exchanging the remains of two Israeli soldiers for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
Jordan’s national carrier, Royal Jordanian, announced it had resumed flights to Tel Aviv on Sunday, after suspending them for a month due to rocket fire hitting near the runway of Israel’s main airport.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.