Dozens of Gazans have been killed in another round of Israeli airstrikes in the war-battered strip after peace negotiations between Israel and Hamas, a group that has ruled Gaza since 2007 under a seven-year blockade from Israel, broke down.
Yet again, both Hamas and Israel are exchanging blame for the failure of their ‘peace’ talks. Rockets launched from Gaza exploded near Be'er Sheva in southern Israel, causing neither injury nor damage.
Among the neighborhoods in Gaza that were bombed were Khan Younis, Beit Hanoun – which was visited by American journalist Max Blumenthal a few days ago – and Shujaiya, site of the July 20 massacre, which killed at least 65 Palestinians.
Since Israel began its assault on Gaza on July 8, more than 2,000 people have been killed, and Israel and Hamas have committed to six ceasefires. The first three ceasefires collapsed within hours. The latest ceasefire held for five days, offering Gazans the biggest break since the military offensive started.
This time, Israeli and Palestinian factions met in Cairo for another round of talks. Hamas wants Israel to lift the seven-year blockade. They also want the release of about 125 key political prisoners held in Israeli military prisons. Israel demands include an end to rocket attacks, the demilitarization of Gaza and disarmament of Hamas.
While Israel accused Hamas of breaching this ceasefire, Hamas told Ma'an News Agency, an independent news site in Palestine, that Israel “ended the truce and claimed that three rockets hit Israel, which Hamas had no information about”, hinting that the three rockets might have been launched by one of the other Palestinian militant factions involved in this conflict.
Within an hour of the end of negotiations, an Israeli airstrike hit the Al-Dalou home in Gaza City's Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzuk told Reuteurs that the strike on the Al-Dalou home was an assassination attempt against Muhammad Deif, head of Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigade, in Gaza. While western media, notably Fox News, immediately claimed that Deif had been killed, that claim was immediately dismissed by Hamas’ Al-Aqsa Radio. The strike on Deif's house killed Deif's wife and child. The same home was targeted in 2012 during Israel's last offensive in Gaza, killing 12.
At the time of writing, the death toll stood at 2,039, including 540 children and 75 families. Seventy-two percent of Palestinians killed in this offensive are civilians, according to the UN. Israel has bombed residential neighborhoods, schools, a playground, hospitals, shelters and refugee camps. Some estimates say 40 percent of Gaza's urban area has been reduced to rubble. Israel attacked the only power plant in Gaza on July 28, plunging the congested strip of 1.8 million people into darkness while putting its limited water and sanitation infrastructure under crippling stress.
As to the reason for the failure of the Cairo talks, Israel accuses Hamas of terrorism while Hamas accused Israel of failing to uphold its own promised commitments. As Ma'an agency reported, “the Palestinian negotiations delegation has repeatedly demanded that a lasting ceasefire will only come through the lifting of Israel's eight-year siege of the Gaza Strip,” a siege considered illegal under international law, labeled by the International Committee of the Red Cross as “a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law”.
Most of the world and the United Nations considers Gaza and the West Bank occupied by Israel. This is Israel's third military operation in Gaza in six years.