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Israel, Hamas Resume Gaza Fighting

by Scott Stearns July 27, 2014

Israel says it has resumed its raids in Gaza because Palestinians have ignored the 24-hour extension of a humanitarian cease-fire that was requested by the United Nations.

The military said Sunday 'following Hamas' incessant rocket fire throughout the humanitarian window, which was agreed upon for the welfare of the civilian population in Gaza, the IDF will now resume its aerial, naval and ground activity in the Gaza Strip.'

Palestinians say three people have been killed in Gaza since the shelling resumed.

Militants in the Gaza Strip hit Israel with a barrage of rockets Sunday, several hours after Israel agreed to pause the fighting.

The Israeli military says seven rockets were fired at southern Israel early Sunday. It say five rockets landed and two were downed by Israel's Iron Dome air defense system.

Israel had agreed Saturday to continue the original 12-hour truce in Gaza another 24 hours through Sunday at midnight local time (( 2100 UTC)). An Israeli official says the United Nations asked for the extension and the Cabinet agreed.

The official says Israel would respond to Hamas rocket fire during the extension and continue to search for and destroy tunnels Hamas uses to smuggle weapons and fighters. Hamas rejected the extension, saying Israel first had to withdraw its forces from Gaza.

Hamas militants fired several rockets into Israel shortly after the original 12-hour cease-fire ended. Israeli forces did not respond.

Saturday's truce gave Gaza residents a chance to return to their homes to see what is left after nearly three weeks of Israeli airstrikes in response to Hamas rocket fire. Some were able to salvage a few belongings while others found their homes destroyed.

Palestinians say their death toll has exceeded 1,000. Most of those killed were civilians, including many children. Israel says 43 Israeli soldiers and two civilians have died.

Several thousand people gathered in Tel Aviv Saturday evening, calling for an end to Israel's military campaign in Gaza.

Foreign ministers meet

Seven foreign ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, met in Paris Saturday as part of round-the-clock efforts to stop the fighting.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the diplomats are urging a lasting cease-fire that addresses Israel's concerns about security while trying to accommodate Palestinian demands for economic development in Gaza.

U.S. officials traveling with Kerry say Hamas believes some of what it was promised in a 2012 cease-fire was never delivered — especially the lifting of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza — so they are more skeptical about a deal now.

Secretary Kerry cannot negotiate directly with Hamas because the United States considers it a terrorist group, so he is working through Turkey and Qatar, which are presently the biggest backers of Hamas.

Turkey pressing for long-term solution

​​In a separate meeting with Secretary Kerry and Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah, the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara is pressing for a longer-term solution to the violence.

'Turkey will be working very hard to stop this bloodshed on the ground, to reach a sustainable cease-fire, and at the end of these efforts to have a two-state solution which is the real solution for all these disasters and bloodshed,' he said.

US diplomatic efforts

Secretary Kerry led nine months of talks on a two-state solution that ended in April without success. But those talks were with the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, not with those from the Hamas-led Gaza strip.

Israel has long pressed to restrict movement to Gaza to prevent Hamas from importing weapons. Qatari Foreign Minister Attiyah says a Gaza port could be monitored by the international community.

​​'Gaza, I think, deserves now to have a free movement of goods, a free movement of trade. They deserve now to have their own port so they can trade in and out even if it is under international supervision,' he said.​​

Secretary Kerry has spent nearly one week trying to a get a cease-fire that would lead to broader talks on the future of Gaza with the participation of the international community. But he says Israel cannot have a cease-fire that doesn't protect it from Hamas attacks, and Palestinians cannot have a cease-fire in which they do not believe they are going to have the ability to 'live and breathe more freely and move within the crossings.'

'Palestinians need to live with dignity with some freedom with goods that can come in and out, and they need a life that is free from the current restraints that they feel on a daily basis and obviously free from violence,' he said.

Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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