GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns Hamas that Israel will intensify its week-long campaign against Gaza militants if Hamas rejects an Egyptian-proposed cease-fire.
The truce was supposed to go into effect early on Tuesday morning but the Israeli military says 24 rockets have been fired at Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip since the expected start of the cease-fire.
Netanyahu says that “if Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal and the rocket fire from Gaza does not cease, and that appears to be the case, we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation.”
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Hamas rejected an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel that was to take effect Tuesday, saying Cairo did not consult the group over the deal. Israel accepted the truce plan, but warned it would strike Gaza hard if Hamas didn’t abide by it.
Militants from Gaza fired five rockets at Israel, shortly after the Egyptian-proposed starting time for a gradual de-escalation on Tuesday morning.
The military wing of Hamas, which has been responsible for most of the hundreds of rockets launched at Israel in the past week said the Egyptian plan “wasn’t worth the ink it was written with.”
However, Hamas didn’t close the door to negotiations on ending a week of fighting that killed at least 192 Palestinians and exposed millions of Israelis to rocket fire.
The militant group appeared to be holding out for better cease-fire conditions, with senior officials saying the current proposal offers no tangible achievements, particularly on easing a border blockade of Gaza enforced by Israel and Egypt.
Hamas also wants to be recognized by Egypt as a partner in any truce efforts. Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said the movement was not consulted by Egypt.
“We did not receive any official draft of this Egyptian proposal,” he said, adding that the plan, as is, was “not acceptable.”
Hamas officials are weary of promises by Egypt and Israel to ease the border blockade. Such promises were also part of a truce that ended more than a week of fighting in 2012, but were quickly broken as violence flared again.
An easing of the blockade of the coastal strip is key to the survival of Hamas.
Before the outbreak of the latest round of fighting, the militant group found itself in a serious financial crisis because a particularly tight closure by Egypt had prevented cash and goods from coming into the strip through hundreds of smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev warned that Israel would strike Gaza even harder if Hamas does not accept the truce.
“If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal, if Hamas continues to shoot rockets at Israeli cities, we are prepared to continue our military operation and intensify it as needed to protect our people,” he said.
Over the past week, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against targets in Gaza to try to diminish Hamas’ ability to fire rockets at Israel.