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Hamas Defies Int’l Cease-Fire Efforts, Launching Dozens of Rockets

An Egypt-sponsored ceasefire aimed at deescalating hostilities between Israel and Hamas failed to take hold on Tuesday, with the Israelis unilaterally suspending military action against the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip at the designated 9:00 a.m. start time, but with Palestinian fighters subsequently exploiting the lull to launch roughly 50 rockets at Israeli population centers over the next six hours. By 3:00 p.m. Jerusalem had concluded that the truce had failed, and the Israeli Air Force resumed strikes against military targets in the Gaza Strip:

“Hamas closed the diplomatic option. We woke up this morning in the hope there’d be a cease-fire and, as you reported, Israel restrained from all our activities, all action against terrorists in Gaza for a full six hours. We gave this cease-fire our full support,” Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”

“But Hamas said no to everyone. Hamas said no to the cease-fire, both in word and in deed,” Regev said.

Secretary of State John Kerry had that morning been unsparing in criticizing Hamas:

“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.

Tuesday’s reporting about Hamas’s internal deliberations was at times imprecise, with mulitple outlets suggesting that figures within the organization’s so-called political wing had considered accepting the Egyptian proposal. That characterization is strained. Former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh – who remains, per CNN, the group’s “chief political leader” – went on TV Monday night and rejected the ceasefire, mocked Israel’s willingness to halt hostilities:

Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh boasted that Israel’s eagerness for a ceasefire was evidence that the “Zionists” were losing the war.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum, who speaks for the organization’s leadership, echoed the stance. So did Sami Abu Zuhri, another top spokesman for the organization. So did Osama Hamdan, Hamas’s Lebanon-based director of foreign affairs.

[Photo: Farshad Brahimi / Flickr]