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Hamas: Israeli airstrike killed wife, child of Qassam chief

Aug. 20, 2014 9:49 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 22, 2014 7:32 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli airstrikes killed the wife and child of Hamas' military chief in Gaza overnight, exiled leader Mousa Abu Marzouq said early Wednesday.

"The Israeli occupation took rockets fired from Gaza as a pretext to target a senior Hamas personality," Abu Marzouq wrote on Facebook, referring to Muhammad Deif, the commander of the al-Qassam Brigades.

"The wife of the great leader was martyred with his daughter," in a strike Tuesday night, he said.

An Israeli strike late Tuesday targeted the al-Dalou home in Sheikh Radwan, killing a woman and a young girl, medics said.

Ma'an reporters in Gaza said the attack killed two children, one of whom was Deif's son, and Deif's wife.

Meanwhile, seven Palestinians were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a home in Deir al-Balah, medics said.

The victims were identified as Raafat al-Louh, his brothers Muhammad and Ahmad, his pregnant wife Nabila, his sons Farah, Maysara, and Mustafa.

Medics were unable to save Nabila's fetus, though she had been nine months pregnant.

Eight others were injured in the attack and evacuated to al-Aqsa Martyrs' hospital in in Deir al-Balah.

A 24-hour truce due to last until midnight collapsed late Tuesday afternoon, with each side blaming the other.

The al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement that it fired 34 rockets into Israel throughout Tuesday, hitting Tel Aviv and the southern city of Beersheba.

An Israeli military statement put the number fired at "about 50" but reported no casualties.

"A rocket hit an open area in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area," it said and confirmed that two rockets landed near Beersheva, which is home to around 200,000 Israelis.

Air raid sirens were also heard in Jerusalem, with Hamas claiming a rocket attack on the city.

Police said it appeared that a rocket fell on empty ground in the occupied West Bank, outside Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a new round of air strikes on Gaza and recalled his negotiators from Egyptian-mediated ceasefire talks in Cairo.

"The rocket fire which broke the ceasefire also destroyed the foundation on which the talks in Cairo were based," Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told AFP early Wednesday.

"The Egyptian initiative is based on a total and unconditional cessation of hostilities, which was clearly broken when rockets were fired into Israel."

'Ceasefire has broken down'

Palestinian delegation head Azzam al-Ahmad said that his team would leave Cairo on Wednesday.

"We are leaving ... but we have not pulled out of negotiations," he told AFP, adding the Palestinians were waiting for Israel to respond to their truce proposal.

"We will not come back (to Cairo) until Israel responds," he said.

The fighting shattered nine days of relative quiet in the skies over Gaza.

A senior Hamas official, Ezzat al-Rishq, warned Israel it would "not enjoy security so long as the Palestinian people do not."

But Israel's US ally put the blame squarely on the group itself.

"Hamas has security responsibility for Gaza ... Rocket fire came from Gaza," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

"As of right now, with today's developments, we are very concerned and it is our understanding the ceasefire has broken down."

The renewal of Israeli air strikes spread panic among Gaza residents.

An AFP reporter saw hundreds of Palestinians streaming out of Shujaiyya, an eastern area of Gaza City which has been devastated by more than a month of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.

More poured out of the Zeitoun and Shaaf areas, alarmed by a series of explosions and heading to shelter in UN schools, local witnesses said.

Bomb shelters opened in Israel

In Israel the army said that it ordered that public bomb shelters within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of the Gaza border, be opened ready for use.

That includes Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Israel has vowed not to negotiate under rocket fire, and Netanyahu has pledged "a very strong response" to any resumption of rocket attacks.

The Cairo talks center on an Egyptian proposal that meets some Palestinian demands, such as easing Israel's eight-year blockade on Gaza, but puts off debate on other thorny issues until later.

Amnesty International renewed an appeal for access to Gaza.

"Valuable time has already been lost," it said.

Egypt's proposal calls for both sides to immediately stop shooting and includes provisions relating to opening the borders to allow for free movement of people, goods and construction materials, as well as a clause on regulating the economic crisis within the impoverished enclave.

But crucially, it postpones discussions on issues such as a port and airport for another month, until "after calm and stability returns," along with talks over exchanging the remains of two Israeli soldiers for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

AFP contributed to this report
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