Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

GAZA CITY — Israeli military units and Palestinian militants traded fresh attacks Sunday, even as each side offered truces to temporarily halt the bloodshed ahead of the upcoming Muslim holiday.

Each blamed the other for the prolonged fighting.

After initially rejecting an Israeli offer Saturday for a 24-hour truce, Hamas said Sunday it agreed to hold fire ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

But as Israel's Cabinet considered the offer, rockets fell on southern Israel and Israeli strikes could be heard in Gaza.

Hamas said that "due to the lack of commitment" by Israel, it resumed its fire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hamas showed it could not be trusted.

"Israel is not obliged and is not going to let a terrorist organization decide when it's convenient to fire at our cities, at our people, and when it's not," Netanyahu said on "Fox News Sunday."

President Obama urged a "humanitarian ceasefire" during a phone call with Netanyahu.

"The President underscored the enduring importance of ensuring Israel's security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza's humanitarian crisis, and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza's long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority," said a White House statement.

Hamas' announcement came after Israel offered a 24-truce that was rejected by the militant group late Saturday.

The Israeli military charged that about a dozen rockets were launched from Gaza since midnight, and said it was resuming its military operations in the Gaza Strip as a result.

After Hamas' call for a cease-fire, an Israeli airstrike killed one in Gaza after it hit a vehicle carrying workers who were on their way to fix water pipes, the Palestinian Red Crescent said. At the same time, a rocket fired from Gaza lightly injured one person in Israel, police said, as sirens wailed throughout southern Israel.

The 20-day conflict has left more than 1,030 Palestinians dead, according to the Associated Press. In Israel, 46 have died, including 43 soldiers, two civilians and a Thai worker, AP reported.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on CNN that Hamas is not respecting cease-fire proposals from the past 24 hours and that Israel will continue to respond.

"We will take what action is necessary to defend our people," he said.

Asked about Palestinian civilian deaths, Netanyahu said Hamas is responsible because it hides weapons in and launches rockets from hospitals and schools.

"They don't care not only about targeting our civilians but hiding behind their civilians as a human shield,'' Netanyahu said. "They want to pile up more and more dead bodies of Palestinians.''

Mohammad Shtayyeh, Palestinian Authority Economic Council Minister responded, calling Israel's attacks "totally unjustified."

Speaking to CNN, he added Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is forming a delegation to go to Cairo to work on negotiating a cease-fire.

"Israel has a hidden agenda: To really destroy and totally destroy the Palestinian reconciliation'' that led to formation of Palestinian Authority government, Shtayyeh said.

Saturday's 12-hour truce allowed Palestinians to move medical supplies and tend to the dead and injured in the Gaza Strip. Gazans found dozens of bodies buried under rubble of buildings demolished by airstrikes and shelling.

In Gaza, many say the high death toll belies any attempt by Israel to minimize civilian casualties.

"I wonder how Israeli mothers feel when they see our children killed, our homes attacked — do they really have hearts or do they just consider us animals," asked Um Ateyya, 57, a grandmother in Gaza City.

International efforts to secure a lasting cease-fire have so far failed. On Friday, Israel rejected a week-long truce because officials said it was would force them to interrupt their operations to destroy the tunnels it deems a strategic threat because they allow Hamas fighters to attack Israel.

A truce proposed by Egypt two weeks ago was rejected by Hamas because the group said it wasn't consulted. Hamas refuses to agree to any cease-fire that doesn't include the lifting of a blockade surrounding Gaza that has been in place since 2007.

Ahead of the announcement of the holiday cease-fire, 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.

Bhatti reported from Berlin. Contributing: The Associated Press


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