Israel rejects American cease-fire plan

GAZA CITY - Israel's security cabinet unanimously rejected a cease-fire proposal Friday that called for a week-long truce in the deadly conflict.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met twice Friday in Cairo with U.N. chief Ban Ki Moon and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri in an effort to nail down the proposal that would have allowed Israelis and Palestinians to discuss a broader deal.

After meeting for several hours Friday, Israel's security cabinet said it was seeking modifications to the proposal, Reuters reported.

"The security cabinet has unanimously rejected the ceasefire proposal of Kerry, as it stands," Israeli public television reported, according to AFP.

The news comes as five Palestinians were shot and killed in protests Friday in the West Bank after Palestinians called for a "Day of Rage" against the Israeli military's operation.

The circumstances surrounding the shootings in the northern village of Hawara and the southern village of Beit Omar, near Hebron, were not immediately clear.

Security was beefed up Friday in Jerusalem and the West Bank after thousands clashed with Israeli security forces Thursday night, leaving at least one Palestinian dead. Thursday's protests at a West Bank checkpoint and in East Jerusalem marked the largest demonstrations in those areas in several years.

The violence follows the shelling Thursday of a U.N. school, where at least 15 were killed and dozens wounded as the U.N. was trying to evacuate civilians in the northern town of Beit Hanoun.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli shells hit the school. The Israeli military said it was reviewing the incident and suggested Hamas-launched rockets may have been responsible for the deaths.

The conflict — in its 18th day — has killed 828 Palestinians and left 5,200 injured, said Ashraf al-Kidra, a Palestinian health official. Since July 8, 35 Israelis — including 33 soldiers — have been killed, according to the Israel Defense Forces. A Thai worker in Israel also died.

The Israeli military said Friday that Oron Shaul, an Israeli soldier Hamas claimed to be holding, was in fact killed in battle Sunday.

The failure of the latest cease-fire proposal comes after a truce proposed by Egypt last week was rejected by Hamas because the group said it wasn't consulted. Hamas says any peace deal must include the lifting of a blockade against Gaza.

In Tel Aviv, an Air Canada flight from Toronto aborted its first landing attempt Friday after Hamas fired several rockets toward Ben Gurion International Airport. But the Boeing 767-300 landed safely 10 minutes after the go-around and the airline plans to continue flying to Israel.

Five miles before landing, flight AC84 was advised by local air-traffic controllers to perform a standard go-around "until airspace conditions could be confirmed as safe for landing," said Isabelle Arthur, an airline spokeswoman. The plane landed safely at 12:07 p.m. and return flight 85 departed for Toronto at 1:59 p.m., Arthur said.

"We plan to operate this evening's flight to (Tel Aviv) as scheduled," Arthur said.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Justice Minister Saleem Al-Saqqa and Ismail Jabr, the Gaza court public prosecutor, filed a complaint to the International Criminal Court on Friday, accusing Israel of war crimes, including apartheid, attacks against civilians, excessive loss of human life and colonization.

Early Friday, Israeli planes hit 30 houses throughout Gaza, including the home of Salah Hassanein, a leader of the military wing of Islamic Jihad, the second-largest militant group in Gaza after Hamas. Hassanein and two of his sons were killed in the strike, said Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji and al-Kidra. The Israeli army confirmed the strike.

Support for Hamas, in spite of the casualties — or some say because of them — is growing in Gaza.

"The problem is not with Hamas, the problem is the occupation," said Arafat Yasin, 46, a displaced resident from the Shijaeyyah neighborhood in east Gaza City that came under heavy bombardment last weekend. "The Palestinian Authority has been engaged in peace talks with Israelis for over 20 years, and the actions of the Israelis reflect their unwillingness to end their occupation."

"It's clear that they – the Israelis — are not interested in peace," he said.

Bhatti reported from Berlin. Contributing: Bart Jansen in Washington; The Associated Press


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