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Strikes, counterstrikes resume between Israel and Hamas after talks fail

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 3:09 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 23 people have been killed in renewed Israeli strikes, Gaza Health Ministry says
  • "If you shoot, you will get attacked," Netanyahu warns Hamas
  • Hamas' armed wing leader not killed in airstrike, a Hamas official said
  • Hamas negotiator says Israelis negotiated in bad faith in Cairo talks

(CNN) -- Strikes and counterstrikes between Israel and Hamas resumed as talks aimed at agreeing to a longer-term truce fell apart.

Since the temporary ceasefire crumbled Tuesday, at least 137 rockets have been launched from Gaza, the Israeli military said. Of those, 94 hit Israel and 24 were intercepted.

Sirens warning of rocket fire repeatedly wailed above the Eshkol region, Ashdod and other Israeli communities on Wednesday. One rocket struck a home in the Ashkelon area but no injuries were reported.

Israel has retaliated with airstrikes on Gaza, attacking some 80 suspected militant sites. The attacks have killed 23 people and injured more than 130, the Gaza Health Ministry said Wednesday.

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Hamas said one such strike targeted Mohammed Deif, the head of its armed wing, the Qassam Brigades. It killed Deif's wife and 7-month-old son instead, the Gaza Health Ministry said. But Mousa Marzhouk, deputy head of Hamas' politburo, said Wednesday that Deif was not killed and is "in a safe place."

The Israeli military said it was looking into the claim.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior spokesman for Hamas, posted on Twitter that Israel would "pay a heavy price" for its "crimes against Palestinian civilians." He said the conflict around Gaza would not end unless Deif decided it should and unless Israel committed to halting violence and lifting its siege of the territory.

The Qassam Brigades warned international airlines to refrain from landing at or taking off from Ben Gurion Airport in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv starting 6 a.m. local time Thursday (11 p.m. ET Wednesday). The statement was aired Wednesday by the Palestinian outlet Al Aqsa TV.

The blame game

As has been the case throughout the conflict, each side blamed the other for the collapse of the ceasefire and failure of peace talks.

Israel's military resumed airstrikes Tuesday afternoon after it said three rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza. Hamas denied involvement in firing the rockets. The truce had been due to last until midnight Tuesday.

The talks in Cairo were bound to be difficult because of what they tried to achieve.

Israel wanted Gaza to be demilitarized, demanding that Hamas, which controls the territory, and other militant groups lay down their arms.

Palestinians wanted Israel's blockade to end, saying it is strangling the economy of the small, impoverished strip of land and the lives of its inhabitants.

Senior Hamas official Izzat Risheq, who was involved in the negotiations in Cairo, said Wednesday that the Israelis negotiated in bad faith and never intended to a make a deal.

"The Israeli delegation was not serious enough to achieve a deal, and was evasive and did not respond to any of our demands, and, therefore, they are the ones who are responsible for the failure of these negotiations," he said.

The Palestinians called for the easing of the blockade while postponing their demands to reopen an airport and a seaport for the territory, but the Israelis never responded to the proposal, he said.

Instead, the Israeli side continued to insist on the demilitarization of Gaza, something the Palestinians have long said they will never agree too, Risheq said.

The Israeli authorities -- who retain control of Gaza's airspace, Mediterranean waters and their shared border -- say releasing their grip on what goes into and out of the territory isn't feasible while Hamas and other groups are still building up their arsenals of weapons.

Rebuilding Gaza for the future
Gaza truce shattered by fresh violence
Palestinians in Gaza celebrate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Tuesday, August 26. After more than seven weeks of heavy fighting, Israel and Hamas agreed to an open-ended ceasefire that puts off dealing with core long-term issues. Palestinians in Gaza celebrate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Tuesday, August 26. After more than seven weeks of heavy fighting, Israel and Hamas agreed to an open-ended ceasefire that puts off dealing with core long-term issues.
Israel-Gaza crisis
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Photos: Israel-Gaza crisis Photos: Israel-Gaza crisis
Gaza residents returning home

Israel blamed Gaza militants for breaking the truce. But it was unclear exactly what happened. In one interpretation, the Israelis left Cairo after they gave up on negotiations. In another interpretation, the Israelis took the newest proposal home with them to share with their government.

"We did not seek this war. Israel imposed this war on us and Israel resumed this war, and our people have no other choice but to remain steadfast and defend their families," said Risheq.

'Worse to come'

Saeb Erekat, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Voice of Palestine Radio on Wednesday that the Israeli government alone was responsible for the breakdown of the ceasefire.

He accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of "sabotaging every effort as he did always" in the search for peace.

Appealing for an international effort to protect Gaza, provide aid to its beleaguered citizens and establish a Palestinian state, Erekat said he feared that "worse is still to come."

Netanyahu fired back in comments to Hamas, also on Wednesday.

"Our policy is simple: If you shoot, you will get attacked," he warned. "If you try more, you will get double. If Hamas does not understand that today, (it) will tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, the day after."

Israel will not stop its efforts against Hamas "until we can ensure full safety and security" for people in Israel's south, the prime minister said. If Hamas thinks otherwise, Netanyahu said, it is mistaken.

The latest conflict, which began in early July, has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, leaving entire Gaza neighborhoods in rubble.

The violence has killed 67 people on the Israeli side, with militants in Gaza firing roughly 3,500 rockets toward Israel.

READ: Six decades of war

READ: Gaza's zoo animals caught in crossfire

READ: Israelis jailed for refusing to serve

CNN's Reza Sayah, Ali Younes, Amir Tal, Andrew Carey and Frederik Pleitgen contributed to this report.

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