Hamas Rejects Ceasefire with Rockets; Israel Resumes Strikes

After the Israeli security cabinet voted to accept an Egyptian ceasefire proposal Tuesday morning, Hamas responded with a rocket barrage targeting communities in central and southern Israel.

The New York Times:

Israel has accepted Egypt’s proposal for a cessation of hostilities with Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, the prime minister’s office announced at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the appointed hour for the start of the cease-fire in the proposal made by Cairo on Monday night. …
“In accordance with the government directives, the I.D.F. now holds fire,” Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said in a statement nearly two hours later, using the abbreviation for the Israel Defense Forces. “We remain alert and preserve high preparedness levels, both defensive and offensive. If the Hamas terror organization will fire at Israel, we shall respond.”

However, The Washington Post reported that Hamas rejected the Egyptian proposal.

A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, called the proposal “unacceptable” and complained that Egyptians have not spoken with the Gaza leadership. The group’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigade, wrote on its Web site that the initiative was “not worth the ink it was written with” and “the resistance will continue until all the demands of our people are met.”

Emphasizing Hamas’ rejection of the ceasefire, The Jerusalem Post reports that rockets have been launched towards southern Israeli cities:

A barrage of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip targeted southern Israel and the Lachish region hours after Israel agreed to an Egyptian ceasefire initiative effective as of 9 a.m.

Code Red rocket alert sirens sounded in several western Negev communities bordering Gaza , as well as in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi and Gan Yavne.

Despite the rocket attacks, Israel maintained the ceasefire on its part for more than five hours.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel resumed Operation Protective Edge as of 3PM Israeli time, six hours after Hamas started firing rockets against Israeli targets.

Diplomatic officials said that the IDF actions, which came at 3:00 pm, six hours after Israel held its fire and responded positively to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal, were the result of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rejecting the cease fire.

IAF aircraft began striking targets on Tuesday afternoon following the decision. The IDF stated that it would strike all “elements that are behind terrorist attacks on Israel.

Secretary of State John Kerry blasted Hamas for its continued rocket barrage in spite of the ceasefire effort.

“I cannot condemn strongly enough the actions of Hamas in so brazenly firing rockets in multiple numbers in the face of a goodwill effort to offer a ceasefire, in which Egypt and Israel worked together, that the international community strongly supports,” Kerry told reporters in Vienna on Tuesday morning.

Kerry said that Hamas is “purposely playing politics” by continuing the rocket fire, using innocents as “human shields… against the laws of war.” “And that is why they are a terrorist organization,” Kerry added.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge after Hamas rejected ceasefire proposals a week ago. An Israeli pundit noted that a “flood of rockets from Gaza” precipitated the war despite Israeli restraint.

[Photo: Amir Farshad Ebrahimi / Flickr ]