Gaza fighting surges with no firm sign ceasefire near

Thu Jul 17, 2014 11:58pm GMT
 

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli leaders on Thursday played down prospects of a permanent Gaza ceasefire and fighting returned to a familiar pattern of Palestinian rocket salvoes and Israeli bombing after a five-hour humanitarian truce.

An Israeli official said earlier that senior Israeli negotiators in Cairo had approved a full truce, but a final decision lay with the security cabinet.

But Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has been advocating a move into Gaza to stop rockets being fired on Israel, said: "We are not familiar with the matter."

A Hamas spokesman also denied initial comments by the Israeli official that a full truce was slated to start at 6 a.m. (01.00 a.m. BST) on Friday.

Naftali Bennett, Israel's hawkish economy minister, said time was running out for Hamas, the Islamist group dominant in Gaza.

"We are moving from Iron Dome to an iron fist," Bennett said, referring to an anti-missile system that has intercepted many of the rockets in 10 days of warfare.

With large contingents of Israeli infantry and tanks deployed near the Gaza border, Bennett, a member of the decision-making security cabinet, appeared to amplify Israeli threats of a ground invasion of the densely-populated enclave.

"I want to wish good luck to the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldiers. With the IDF's help, and God's help, we will win," he told reporters in the southern city of Ashkelon, a frequent target of rocket strikes.   Continued...

The father and brother of a Palestinian boy from the Baker family, whom medics said was killed with other three boys from the same family by a shell fired by an Israeli naval gunboat, mourn during their funeral in Gaza City July 16, 2014.  REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
 
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