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Hamas armed wing calls for negotiations delegation to leave Cairo

Aug. 20, 2014 7:05 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 21, 2014 10:15 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas spokesman Abu Ubaida said in a televised speech on Wednesday that Israel had "failed" in its assault on Gaza and called upon the Palestinian negotiating delegation in Cairo to return home.

The speech comes after Israeli airstrikes killed 22 Palestinians over the course of the day, including the wife and baby child of Hamas military chief Muhammad Deif, after a temporary ceasefire unraveled late Tuesday.

Abu Ubaida slammed Israel for the killings, which Israeli military sources had previously claimed had killed Deif himself.

"We tell Israel: you have failed. All you can do is kill children and women. You have failed in all your missions," Abu Ubaida said in his speech.

"Muhammad Deif will enter Jerusalem as the head of the liberating army," he added.

He also warned international airplanes not to use Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, and warned Israelis against gathering in large numbers as the al-Qassam Brigades would renew their rocket fire on Israel.

He also warned Israelis living near Gaza not to return to their homes.

During the course of the speech, five rockets were fired into Israel. According to the Israeli military, all were intercepted, including one above Tel Aviv, two above Beersheba, and two above Ashkelon.

Abu Ubeida called upon the Palestinian negotiating team in Cairo to give up on ongoing direct talks with Israel to reach a lasting truce, after days in which Hamas has complained that Israel was "stalling" and refusing to offer any concessions.

The Palestinian negotiations delegation has repeatedly demanded that a lasting ceasefire will only come through the lifting of Israel's eight-year siege of the Gaza Strip, which has devastated the economy as a result of the severe limitation of all imports, exports, and movement of people.

Israel, however, has thus far refused the condition, which comes after nearly six weeks of bombardment that has left more than 2,040 Palestinians dead, more than 10,200 injured, and more than 100,000 homeless.

Israel has instead insisted on the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, a demand Palestinian military groups have scoffed at in the wake of the recent Israeli assault.

A fragile peace has kept over the last two weeks through repeated temporary ceasefires, which have been largely observed by both sides, as they negotiated indirectly in Cairo.

Truce talks torpedoed

The violence on Wednesday left Egyptian truce efforts in tatters, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately ordering the delegation back from Cairo.

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

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

Most of the Palestinian negotiators, including delegation head Azzam al-Ahmed, also left Cairo.

"We are leaving ... but we have not pulled out of negotiations," Ahmed told AFP, saying the Palestinians had handed a truce proposal to Israel and were waiting for the answer.

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

The Egyptian foreign ministry expressed "profound regret at the breach of the ceasefire" and said it was working to bring both sides back to the negotiating table.

Following Israel's deadly air strike, Hamas militants fired 50 rockets over the border targeting Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion airport, the group said.

Throughout Wednesday Israeli airstrikes continued, and at least 180 rockets were fired into Israel.

AFP contributed to this report.
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