GAZA TRUCE TALKS BREAK DOWN AS ISRAEL, HAMAS TRADE ROCKET FIRE

FoxNews on August 19, 2014, reported that talks being held in Cairo for a long-term Gaza cease-fire broke down as Israel recalled its delegation hours after Palestinian militants broke an earlier truce by launching volleys of rockets. Excerpts below:

An Israeli official told The Associated Press that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered negotiators at cease-fire talks to return home.

The Israeli military said a total of 10 rockets had fallen on August 19, including one that damaged a coffee shop in southern Israel.

Israel responded to the rockets by launching their own airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s civil defense authority, the Home Front Command, ordered authorities to reopen public bomb shelters within a 25-mile range of Gaza.

The Israeli moves, coupled with the outbreak of violence, threw Egyptian efforts to arrange a long-term cease-fire into jeopardy.

The Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists, said the Egyptian-hosted talks with Hamas militants are based on the “premise” that there will be no violence.

There was no immediate Egyptian comment, but a Hamas official declared the talks over.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But shortly before the launch, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum hinted of more rocket fire, saying: “If Netanyahu doesn’t understand … the language of politics in Cairo, we know how to make him understand.”

In a statement on August 19, Israel’s military accused Palestinian militants of violating a cease-fire and said it maintains “both defense and striking capabilities in order to address the renewed aggression.”

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev called the rocket attack “a grave and direction violation of the cease-fire.”

Wide gaps remain on key issues in the cease-fire talks, including Israel’s blockade of Gaza, its demands for disarmament of Hamas and Palestinian demands for a Gaza seaport and an airport.

The militant group finds itself pressured by both Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to accept a less than perfect deal with Israel, but needs to show the people of Gaza that the enormous sacrifices they endured in the fighting were not in vain.

Israel says the blockade of Gaza is needed to prevent arms smuggling, but critics say the measures have amounted to collective punishment.

Gaza Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra said Monday the death toll from the fighting had jumped to over 2,000 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, while U.N. officials, who often take more time to verify figures, put the number at 1,976. Israel lost 67 people, all but three of them soldiers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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