Israel says it's extending Gaza truce for 24 hours

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 26, 2014 at 9:23 pm •  Published: July 26, 2014
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BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas resumed rocket fire Saturday on Israel after rejecting Israel's offer to extend a humanitarian cease-fire, the latest setback in international efforts to negotiate an end to the Gaza war.

Despite the Hamas rejection, Israel's Cabinet decided to extend a truce for 24 hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Sunday. However, it warned that its military would respond to any fire from Gaza and would continue to demolish Hamas military tunnels during this period.

The temporary lull on 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.

In the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, scores of homes had been pulverized, wreckage blocked roads and power cables dangled in the streets. Hardest hit were areas close to the border with Israel, areas from where Gaza militants typically fire rockets.

Manal Kefarneh, 30, wept as she inspected her damaged home.

On an unfinished top floor, she and her husband had been raising chickens. The couple collected the dead and replenished water for the living in hopes they will survive the war.

"What did we do to deserve this?" she asked. "All of the Arab leaders watch what's going on here like it's a Bollywood film."

Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.

Across Gaza, 147 bodies were pulled from the rubble Saturday, officials said. In southern Gaza, a tank shell killed 20 members of an extended family who sought refuge inside a building, al-Kidra said.

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

Israel has lost 42 soldiers and two civilians, and a Thai worker has been killed.

Israeli legislator Ofer Shelah of the centrist Yesh Atid party said Israeli troops are "fighting with an enemy dug in within the civilian population, dug in underground or within the houses there." Referring to the widespread destruction, he said that "those are the consequences of such a fight."

The military took some Israeli journalists into the Gaza border areas where troops were operating. Footage broadcast on Israeli television station Channel 10 showed homes booby-trapped with explosives, as well as grenades, mines and rockets stored there. Tunnels opened up inside houses.

Soldiers said some buildings blew up after being hit by gunfire from all the explosives inside. Col. Ofer Vinter, head of the Givati infantry brigade, said almost every house was booby-trapped with explosives and that Gaza fighters "emerge from the ground all the time."

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