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Israel resumes offensive after Gaza rocket fire

KDWN

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel resumed its Gaza offensive on Sunday, calling off a unilateral extension of a humanitarian cease-fire after Palestinian militants fired several rockets at southern Israel.

The rocket fire began late Saturday after Gaza’s Hamas rulers, who have demanded the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the territory and the release of prisoners, refused to extend the truce.

Israel’s Cabinet had decided to extend the cease-fire for 24 hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Sunday. However, it warned that the military would respond to any fire from Gaza and would continue to demolish cross-border tunnels used by militants to stage attacks.

The military said about a dozen rockets were fired toward Israel since midnight — without causing casualties or damage — and that as a result it would “resume its aerial, naval and ground activity in the Gaza Strip.”

“Once again Hamas is cynically using the people of Gaza as a human shield,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

Shortly thereafter, clashes erupted between Israeli troops and Gaza militants and the sounds of explosions echoed across the coastal territory. The Islamic Jihad group said one of its field commanders was killed by tank fire near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis.

The 20-day war has killed more than 1,050 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to Palestinian health officials. Israel has lost 43 soldiers. Two civilians and a Thai worker in Israel were killed by rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza.

The 12-hour lull on Saturday — agreed to by both sides following intense U.S. and U.N. mediation efforts — saw Palestinians return to neighborhoods reduced to rubble and allowed medics to collect close to 150 bodies, Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said.

The Hamas rejection of a further lull complicated the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign ministers, who were meeting in Paris in hopes of transforming the cease-fire into a more sustainable truce.

Israel launched its military operation on July 8 and later sent ground forces into Gaza to stop relentless rocket fire and to destroy a sophisticated network of Hamas tunnels that could be used to infiltrate the country.

The military says it is doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, including by sending evacuation warnings to residents in targeted areas, and blames Hamas for putting civilians in harm’s way.

Hamas and other militants in Gaza have fired more than 2,400 rockets at Israel since hostilities began on July 8, many deep into the Israeli heartland and toward most of the country’s major cities. Casualties in the Israeli side have stayed relatively low thanks to Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome missile defense system and because residents have been vigilant about seeking shelter quickly upon hearing the air raid sirens.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said any truce must include a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and that tens of thousands of displaced people must be allowed to return to their homes. Israel’s current terms are “not acceptable,” he said in a text message to journalists.

Israel’s acceptance of the cease-fire extension was premised on its soldiers remaining in Gaza to destroy the more than 30 tunnels the military says it has already found in the densely populated coastal strip. Israel says the tunnels represent a strategic threat because they allow Hamas fighters to carry out attacks on Israeli territory.

Israel resumes offensive after Gaza rocket fire

KDWN

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has resumed its Gaza offensive after a series of Palestinian rocket attacks.

The Israeli military said Sunday that following “Hamas’ incessant rocket fire” during the unilateral Israeli extension of a temporary humanitarian truce it would resume targeting Gaza militants.

Israel’s Cabinet had unilaterally decided to extend the truce for 24 hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Sunday. Hamas, which has requested the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza, among other demands, did not agree to extend the truce.

The 20-day operation has already killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and 45 Israelis.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Palestinian militants launched a big rocket salvo at Israel early Sunday, endangering a unilateral cease-fire and opening the way for a possible expansion of the 20-day operation, which has already killed 1,047 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers.

The Israeli military said seven rockets were fired at southern Israel early Sunday, after Israel accepted but Hamas militants rejected a 24-hour extension of a humanitarian cease-fire meant to remain into effect until midnight Sunday (2100 GMT).

Two of the rockets were downed by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system and five fell in open areas, the military said. It underscores the success of a defense system that has limited fatalities on the Israeli side to only three despite the more than 2,400 rockets Hamas has launched toward Israel.

Also Sunday, the military announced the 43rd fatality of the campaign, which it says is aimed at neutralizing the rocket fire and destroying a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels. Barak Refael Degorker, 27, died in fighting Saturday “in the vicinity” of the strip, it said. No other details were available.

A temporary lull in the fighting Saturday saw Palestinians return to neighborhoods reduced to rubble and allowed medics to collect close to 150 bodies, Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said.

With the retrieval of the corpses, the number of Palestinians killed reached 1,047 in 19 days of fighting, while more than 6,000 were wounded, he said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign ministers, meeting in Paris, had hoped to transform the cease-fire into a more sustainable truce. That effort was thrown into doubt with the Hamas’ rejection of the extension.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said any truce must include a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and that tens of thousands of displaced people must be allowed to return to their homes. Israel’s current terms are “not acceptable,” he said in a text message to journalists.

Israel’s acceptance of the cease-fire extension is premised on its soldiers remaining in Gaza to destroy the 31 tunnels the military says it has already found in the densely populated coastal strip. Israel says the tunnels represent a “strategic” threat because they allow Hamas fighters to carry out attacks on Israeli territory.

Israel resumes offensive after Gaza rocket fire

KDWN

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has resumed its Gaza offensive after a series of Palestinian rocket attacks.

The Israeli military said Sunday that following “Hamas’ incessant rocket fire” during the unilateral Israeli extension of a temporary humanitarian truce it would resume targeting Gaza militants.

Israel’s Cabinet had unilaterally decided to extend the truce for 24 hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Sunday. Hamas, which has requested the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza, among other demands, did not agree to extend the truce.

The 20-day operation has already killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and 45 Israelis.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Palestinian militants launched a big rocket salvo at Israel early Sunday, endangering a unilateral cease-fire and opening the way for a possible expansion of the 20-day operation, which has already killed 1,047 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers.

The Israeli military said seven rockets were fired at southern Israel early Sunday, after Israel accepted but Hamas militants rejected a 24-hour extension of a humanitarian cease-fire meant to remain into effect until midnight Sunday (2100 GMT).

Two of the rockets were downed by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system and five fell in open areas, the military said. It underscores the success of a defense system that has limited fatalities on the Israeli side to only three despite the more than 2,400 rockets Hamas has launched toward Israel.

Also Sunday, the military announced the 43rd fatality of the campaign, which it says is aimed at neutralizing the rocket fire and destroying a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels. Barak Refael Degorker, 27, died in fighting Saturday “in the vicinity” of the strip, it said. No other details were available.

A temporary lull in the fighting Saturday saw Palestinians return to neighborhoods reduced to rubble and allowed medics to collect close to 150 bodies, Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said.

With the retrieval of the corpses, the number of Palestinians killed reached 1,047 in 19 days of fighting, while more than 6,000 were wounded, he said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign ministers, meeting in Paris, had hoped to transform the cease-fire into a more sustainable truce. That effort was thrown into doubt with the Hamas’ rejection of the extension.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said any truce must include a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and that tens of thousands of displaced people must be allowed to return to their homes. Israel’s current terms are “not acceptable,” he said in a text message to journalists.

Israel’s acceptance of the cease-fire extension is premised on its soldiers remaining in Gaza to destroy the 31 tunnels the military says it has already found in the densely populated coastal strip. Israel says the tunnels represent a “strategic” threat because they allow Hamas fighters to carry out attacks on Israeli territory.