Palestinians flee after Israel warning, airstrikes

Last modified: 7/16/2014 10:25:01 PM
Israel agreed to a five-hour “humanitarian” pause in its 9-day-old bombardment of Gaza that has killed more than 200 Palestinians, including four boys struck on a beach yesterday by shells fired from a navy ship.

Israel said it would hold its fire today from 10 a.m. under a U.N.-brokered plan to allow Palestinians to restock food, water and other necessities. But it vowed to retaliate “firmly and decisively” if Hamas or other militant groups launch attacks on Israel during that time.

Robert Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, had asked Israel to agree to a “unilateral humanitarian pause” so the supplies can be delivered to Gaza, said U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq. Serry will “urge the parties in Gaza to respect that pause,” Haq said.

There was no word on whether there would be a similar lull from Palestinian militants.

Israel previously had halted its fire for six hours Tuesday after Egypt put forward a cease-fire proposal that unraveled. Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said yesterday his group had formally rejected the plan, bemoaning what he called little support from the Arab world.

But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met yesterday in Cairo with a senior official from Hamas to try to salvage the Egyptian proposal.

In Washington, President Obama said the U.S. supports Egypt’s continued efforts to restore the 2012 cease-fire and will use all of its diplomatic resources and relationships to secure a deal to end the violence.

Israel’s military said its forces bombed at least 150 targets in Gaza yesterday. It did not provide more specifics, but the Gaza Interior Ministry’s website said 30 houses, including those of senior Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar, Jamila Shanti, Fathi Hamas and Ismail Ashkar were targeted.

Zahar was a key figure in Hamas’s violent takeover of Gaza in 2007, while the other three were members of the Palestinian parliament elected in 2006. Many Hamas leaders have gone into hiding since Israel began its bombardment July 8 in response to rocket attacks from Gaza.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said the Palestinian death toll rose to 222, with 1,670 wounded. Only one Israeli has so far died in the conflict – largely because of the effectiveness of Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system in downing incoming rockets.




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