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Israel abandons Cairo talks

August 19, 2014

A ceasefire during efforts to end one month of fighting in the Gaza Strip appears to have collapsed. Israel has walked out on peace talks in Cairo and launched renewed strikes following rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.


Israeli negotiators walked out on peace talks hours before Tuesday's midnight deadline. A spokesman for the government would not say whether the team would return to Cairo or whether Israel would resume ceasefire talks.

"The Cairo talks were based on an agreed premise of a total cessation of hostilities," spokesman Mark Regev said. "When Hamas breaks the ceasefire, they also break the premise for the Cairo talks. Accordingly, the Israeli team has been called back as a result of today's rocket fire."

Israel's military responded to rockets from Gaza Tuesday (pictured). A military spokeswoman said the three rockets landed in open areas near the city of Beersheba; there were no reports of casualties. No group took immediate responsibility for the attacks.

Later, Israeli officials claimed that the country's Iron Dome missile-defense system had intercepted two more rockets. Hamas police officials in Gaza said that Israel's retaliation included at least 25 airstrikes across the densely populated Palestinian territory of 1.8 million people. Medical officials said the strikes wounded seven people, including two children.

Ending the blockade

Israel launched its offensive on July 8, calling it a bid to stop rocket attacks. Both sides had largely silenced their guns starting on August 4 thanks to a series of temporary truces such as one extended Monday night - which ought to have run until at least midnight on Tuesday.

The Palestinian Health Ministry has put the death toll in this summer's Israeli offensive on the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip at 2,016, mostly civilians. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting, and three civilians died in Israel after militants fired rockets from Gaza.

Palestinian negotiators had sought to put an end to the blockade imposed after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip after winning the 2006 legislative elections and then physically ousting the Fatah party in 2007. Officials say that the refusal of Israeli negotiators to discuss allowing access to sea- and airports for the blockaded enclave of Gaza has dragged out the talks. Israeli officials have repeatedly demanded the complete disarmament of militant factions within Gaza.

Egypt's proposal called for a permanent ceasefire and included provisions relating to opening the borders to allow for movement of people, goods and construction materials. Another clause sought to regulate the blockade's long-term economic impacts within Gaza. The proposal postponed, however, discussions on the sea- and airports, for another month - "after calm and stability returns" - along with talks over exchanging the remains of two Israeli soldiers for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)