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Israel Strikes at the Heart of Hamas as Ceasefire Breaks Down

August 20th 2014

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Israel attempted to assassinate Hamas commander Muhammed Deif in an airstrike on Gaza following a series of rocket volleys originating in Gaza. Deif’s wife and child were killed, while a third unidentified body was found. Israel, however, Israel has not confirmed that the body is Deif’s. He had survived an earlier attempt on his life by Israeli defense forces. Deif has topped Israel's wanted lists for years, as mastermind of deadly suicide bombings more than a decade ago. He is currently believed to be a behind-the-scenes leader of Hamas's campaign against Israel.

Palestinian health officials said the strike on a house in Gaza City killed three people but did not provide any details about the third victim. Palestinian medical sources claim that at least 16 Gazans have been killed since August 19.

The air strike was one of a series of responses by the Israeli air force to renewed attacks from Gaza. The strikes have killed 11 Palestinians, according to Hamas. For its part, Israel has recalled 2,000 reservists who had been sent home during a truce between the sides.

Hamas fired rockets on the night of August 19, hitting targets in the south but also Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The attacks continued into the morning hours of August 20. According to the Israeli Defense Forces, Hamas has fired more than 70 rockets at Israel since August 19. Just hours after rockets shattered the cease-fire agreed upon by Israel and Palestinians, three loud explosions were heard over Tel Aviv, shortly before 11 p.m. on August 19, for the first time in over a week. Hamas has fired at least 100 rockets since breaking the ceasefire at 3:30 PM on August 19, in addition to numerous mortar rounds.

The barrage of missiles ended the sporadic and indirect cease-fire negotiations between Israel and Hamas in Egypt. Israel has called its negotiators home. Israel’s security cabinet will meet this afternoon to discuss the situation. A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on August 20 rejected Palestinian charges that Israel was to blame for a breakdown in ceasefire talks. It was Hamas’ rocket fire, he said, that "made continuation of talks impossible." Spokesman Mark Regev responded to Palestinian negotiator Azzam al-Ahmad's charges, saying "The Cairo process was built on a total and complete cessation of all hostilities and so when rockets were fired from Gaza, not only was it a clear violation of the ceasefire but it also destroyed the premise upon which the talks were based."
Hamas took credit for the missile attacks. The terrorist group said it also launched a J-80 rocket at the Ben Gurion Airport, though there were no reported strikes near the airport. Rocket alert sirens were heard in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and in other communities. Israel confirmed that a rocket fell in an open area of Jerusalem.

One explosion in open territory in the greater Tel Aviv area was so far confirmed. Two rockets exploded in open areas of Sha'ar HaNegev. A rocket directed at the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council shortly before the latest salvo of rockets landed near a shopping center in the area. No injuries were reported but damage was caused to a building.
Israeli authorities have instructed all cities close to the Gaza Strip to open their public bomb shelters. Mayors in Rishon Lezion, Rehovot, Bat Yam and Ramat Gan have all issued orders to open their cities' shelters, out of fear that Gaza rocket fire would begin anew in the Gush Dan area. Earlier, rocket fire from Gaza targeted the city of Beersheba, shattering a six-day truce between Israel and Hamas. Israeli aerial counter-strikes followed, as additional rocket attacks continued to strike several areas. Three rockets fell in open areas near the Negev city on August 19. Soon afterwards, Israeli jets made sorties against targets throughout the Gaza Strip. Gazan rocket fire continued that day and into the evening hours. Israel’s Iron Dome defense system intercepted two rockets over Netivot, and additional projectiles fell near Ashdod, Hof Ashkelon, and Sdot Negev. There are reports that Iron Dome has intercepted at least six rockets, overall.

Hamas spokesman Husam Badran accused Israel of sabotaging the talks, saying that Israel was placing obstacles on every issue. "If we don't reach an agreement that serves the interests of the Palestinians, all options are open." Senior Hamas official Izzat a-Rishek, a member of the Palestinian delegation to Cairo, said that "our people's struggle will not stop with this truce or any other. The struggle will continue until we achieve the goals of the people and fulfill the dream of elections and national independence." Israeli diplomatic sources said that in light of the rockets fired on the South and the violation of the cease-fire, Israeli premier Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon instructed their military to resume its attacks on the Gaza Strip.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said in response to the renewed fire that "when you negotiate with terrorists, you get more terror." Condemning Hamas for the rocket attacks, he said "Sooner or later, Israel will have to defeat Hamas. There is no way around it." Housing Minister Uri Ariel said he backed Netanyahu in "dealing a heavy blow to [Hamas] terrorists" and reinstating the sense of security to Israel.

Cutting Edge Contributor Martin Barillas also edits Speroforum.com

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