News / Middle East

    Israel, Hamas Agree to Brief Truce in Gaza

    • Israeli security personnel look at a window damaged by shrapnel after a short-range rocket landed  near the Erez Crossing, a pedestrian/cargo terminal on the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier, July 16, 2014.
    • A woman cries as Palestinians flee their homes after Israel airdropped leaflets warning people to leave the area, in the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, July 16, 2014.
    • Israelis take cover by the side of a road as a siren sounds a warning of incoming rockets, outside the northern Gaza Strip, July 15, 2014.
    • A man trying to cross into Egypt shouts as he holds his and other family members' passports while he waits at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip, July 16, 2014.
    • Israelis gather to look at the Gaza Strip from a hilltop near the southern town of Sderot, July 15, 2014.
    • Smoke trails are seen as a rocket is launched from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel, July 15, 2014.
    • Palestinians inspect the damage caused by an early morning Israeli missile strike in Gaza City, July 16, 2014.
    • Smoke rises after Israeli missile strikes hit the northern Gaza Strip, July 16, 2014.
    Gabe Joselow

    Israel and Hamas militants have agreed to a United Nations request for a temporary cease-fire in Gaza on Thursday.

    The truce will last five hours to give Palestinian civilians a chance to restock supplies, repair damaged buildings, and get medical care.

    But Israel warns it will react if militants fire rockets during the truce.

    Palestinian officials say the death toll since Israel began its offensive last week rose to 213 Wednesday. Four children were killed by an Israeli airstrike while playing on a beach near Gaza City.

    Television cameras captured the scene as the shells hit the beach and the youngsters tried to run away.

    Israeli officials call the deaths "tragic" and say they are investigating. But they say Hamas militants deliberately fire rockets from areas crowded with civilians, using them as human shields. They accuse Hamas of war crimes.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will continue to do what it has to to protect its citizens from attacks by Hamas and other militants.

    At the White House Wednesday, President Obama said the U.S. will use all its diplomatic resources and relationships to bring the conflict between Israel and Hamas to an end.

    An Egyptian-backed cease-fire proposal collapsed after only a few hours Tuesday when Hamas militants fired rockets into Israel, forcing the Israeli army to retaliate.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said a legitimate cease-fire would help diplomats get to what he called the "real issues" beneath the fighting.

    Palestinians are demanding that Israel lift a long-standing blockade of the Gaza Strip, which is governed by Hamas. Israel regards Hamas as a terrorist group. It is angered that the moderate Fatah wing in the West Bank formed a unity government with Hamas.

    Goal of military operation

    Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said the strikes are part of operations to disrupt the group's terrorist activities.
     
    "The line between political and terrorist activists is extremely vague as far as Hamas is concerned, and the people we struck is the leadership who are involved in terrorist activities, involved in coordinating and leading and instructing these types of activities,” Lerner said.

    Israel began what is called Operation Protective Edge nine days ago as a counter to Hamas firing rockets into Israel.

    Lerner said 70 rockets were fired at Israel on Wednesday, 25 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

    The human cost
     
    By far, however, most casualties have been on the Palestinian side.
     
    A rehabilitation hospital in Gaza was also damaged in Wednesday's strikes.
     
    The director of the Wafa clinic, Basman Alashi, told VOA this was the sixth time the hospital has been hit since the conflict began last week.
     
    "This is not a strategic building, this is not a military building and we are not here yesterday or a month ago or a year ago. We are here since 1996,” Alashi said.
     
    Most of the patients at the hospital are comatose and have been moved to the first floor hallway for safety. Alashi said staff members intend to stay in place to care for them. 

    Lerner denied Israel targeted the hospital.

    "I think specifically what happened last night is we phoned them up and we warned them that there is a rocket launcher adjacent to the building that we suggest they vacate the building because of this rocket launcher,” Lerner said.

    “They said 'No,' and we recommended that they stay away from the windows because we intend to strike the rocket launcher that is on the immediate premises,” he added.

    Alongside the airstrikes, Israel also told tens of thousands of residents of the northern town of Beit Lahiya and the Zeitoun and Shijaiyah neighborhoods of Gaza City, all near the border with Israel, to evacuate their homes by 8 a.m. Wednesday. The warnings were delivered in automated phone calls, text messages and leaflets dropped from planes.

    Rocket-launching sites

    The Israeli military said in its message that large numbers of rockets were launched from these areas and that Israel plans to bomb these locations.

    “Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately, endangers their own lives, as well as those of their families,” the message said.

    Hamas officials told people to ignore the warnings, saying Israel was using "psychological warfare."

    Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is due in Cairo to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to discuss an Egyptian-backed cease-fire deal.

    Israel had accepted the truce offer Tuesday, which included an end to the fighting and further talks in Egypt, but Hamas objected to the terms.  

    The group's leaders had also demanded additional conditions, including the easing of an Israeli blockade on Gaza.
     
    At a news conference Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas militants in Gaza are committing war crimes by directly targeting millions of Israeli civilians with rocket fire and using their own civilians as human shields. He also said the Hamas organization has "shut the door to a diplomatic solution" and bears the responsibility for the continuation of violence.

    Since the conflict began, relations have deteriorated between Abbas' Fattah movement, which governs the West Bank, and Hamas, despite a reconciliation agreement signed between the two last month.    

    Also Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he was conversing with leaders in the Middle East to forge a ceasefire in Gaza.

    “Our concern is to have a legitimate ceasefire and see if we can find a way to stop the conflict, killing, so we can get to the real issues that are underlying it. And, we are doing everything in our power," Kerry said.

    Kerry said he spoke with Israel’s Netanyahu and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, adding that he will continue his diplomatic discussions.

    Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.

    WATCH: Related video report from VOA's Mary Alice Salinas

    White House Urges Hamas to Accept Ceasefirei
    X
    July 16, 2014 3:29 AM
    Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and rocket fire by Hamas militants into Israel continue to cause casualties and terrorize civilians on both sides, as attempts at a ceasefire collapsed Tuesday. VOA's Mary Alice Salinas reports from the White House on what appears to be the Obama administration’s emerging strategy on the crisis.

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    Comments page of 2
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    by: gk from: india
    July 17, 2014 12:23 PM
    It's not funny Mr rippon ,people are getting killed there, and you are making fun,I'll ask you one thing your from Bangladesh right,if Bangladesh gets bombed and your family does what you'll do,all the nations are only pretending that they are helping Gaza but they are not it's politics......and Israel is playing it's part as a terrorist organization...

    by: Ripon from: Bangladesh, South Asia
    July 17, 2014 10:57 AM
    We, the peace loving people of the earth, agree to send both of the Israel & Hamas to the Mars permanently.

    Careless Whisper: Borrow the space shuttle Challenger from the NASA if needed.

    by: Yuval Brandstetter MD from: Beer Sheva, Israel
    July 17, 2014 9:33 AM
    They kept on shooting during the "cease-fire" and Beer Sheva was targeted again at 1540, the rockets neutralized over our head. So much for Arab "cease-fires" the local joke is we cease they fire.

    by: M A Naser from: Bangladesh
    July 16, 2014 5:26 PM
    Dear Stephen!Whoever told you that Jerusalem has been allocacated or gifted to the Israel by the creator of the universe?Rather you better know that the creator of Israeli parasitic state was U.S & U.K.,and they have created a mock state of Israel in the lands & cities of pure Arabian atmosphere by demolishing and destroying everything belongs to Arab Palestinians within the British protectorate region of Palestine excluding the Holy city of Jerusalem.Israel has taken over the Holy City and occupied it during 1967 war.Do you know that the Israelis were always alien and foreign invaders to the Palestine?Better go to your nearest library to find the History Moses(peace be upon Him),Nebuchadnezzar, Babylonian annihilation of Jews etc....
    In Response

    by: Elizabetth Davidson from: St Louis
    July 16, 2014 5:53 PM
    You'd better go back and re read your history MA. The Dome of the Rock was built on top of the second Jewish Temple. So it would seem that the Arabs are the new comers here.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    July 16, 2014 2:50 PM
    Hamas told the people to ignore the warnings while shooting at Israel from population areas. This should be understandable to mean one thing to the Palestinians - that Hamas simply uses the people as human shield whereas their death means nothing to it. Now what has Abbas to offer to a talk when he cannot control his thugs in Gaza? Israel must not discuss with Hamas, a terrorist organization looking for legitimacy. An Israeli involvement with Hamas in dialogue lifts the Hamas status, and will surely be counter productive.. In the failure of Abbas to galvanize his front, Kerry should find other means of brokering peace in the region devoid of a spineless leadership in Ramalah, while Israel should continue the campaign to rout Hamas from the region, even though it will be a favor to the Arabs who have been separated by their rejection or acceptance of Hamas, severally seen as terrorist and backer of Muslim Brotherhood that is devastating the cause of the kingdoms in the region.
    In Response

    by: ali baba from: new york
    July 16, 2014 10:15 PM
    I agree that Hamas is terrorist organization , but I disagree about the conflict that many people lose their lives and destruction in all over the place. Israel has to talk with Hamas to save lives. Keep killing each other is not acceptable. I do not understand Hamas. Hamas approach for the problem is not acceptable

    by: Stephen from: Nigeria
    July 16, 2014 2:11 PM
    Why can't Palestinians realised their dream state from the available current lands excluding Jerusalem? Why must they demand that Israel give up Jerusalem which was given to then by the creator of the whole universe......GOD ALMIGHTY
    In Response

    by: mb from: london
    July 16, 2014 6:36 PM
    Because Jerusalem is their land. The entire land from the river to the sea was Arab land with a few Jews living their too. Then the Jews decided to steal the land and turn it into jewish only land. They expelled 750,000 Arabs from the land. Then they took even more of the land. And then even more of the land. And then even more of the land. And then even more of the land...

    So, Stephen, let me ask you. If I break into your house and occupy half of it. Will you give me half of the house? What if I do not even content myself with half of it and start to take more of it? Will you give me the whole house?

    by: abel from: naija
    July 16, 2014 12:34 PM
    If Hamas rejected Egyptian brokered peace plan, Gaza should be left to its fate. Period.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    July 16, 2014 11:53 AM
    Sooner or later, the Palestinians must draw a line in the sand, (and Gaza could be that drawn line), and tell the Israeli's and the world, (a ceasefire is a surrender, without Israeli concessions), and the rockets will keep firing, and the bombs will keep falling, and Palestinian martyrs will keep dying, until the UN resolutions for Israel to return the occupied Palestinian territories are enforced, and the land returned to the Palestinian people, to form a Palestinian state or country....

    The ancestors of the Palestinians, lived on the lands now called Israel and the Palestinian territories, thousands of years before the Israelites ever migrated from Egypt, and the western countries in the UN, (feeling guilt for helping in killing the Jews), had the UN give some Palestinian land to form Israel, and then, after the (6) day 1967 war, the Israeli's occupied the Palestinian territories, and now, will never return them, (unless someway, somehow, by somebody, at sometime), Israel is forced to return their lands....

    Why should the Gaza Palestinian people die? ... because sooner or later, some Palestinian martyrs must die somewhere, at sometime, to realize their dreams of freedom, and having a state or country of their own, for their children and their children to enjoy, and not forever be, at the mercy of the occupying Israeli's demands....
    In Response

    by: mb from: london
    July 16, 2014 6:39 PM
    Why the Palestinians should accept the 1967 borders? No. There needs to be a single state. It was all Palestinian land before the Jews decided to steal it. Yes there were a handful of Jews living there too,but mainly it was Arab land.

    You have no right to take half of the land and make it into a Jew only area. No right. The Palestinians will not rest with 1967 borders and nor should they.

    What if we take half of America and declare a 2014 border? after 30 years of conflict are the Americans going to give up half of their land to us, and we say that no Americans can live in the land?
    In Response

    by: james from: usa
    July 16, 2014 2:38 PM
    Or the Palestinian govt. can just recognize Israel's right to exist and agree not to attack them any more. Those are the only two things they have to agree to in order to get their own state. But that is never going to happen, because Hamas has stated several times it doesn't want a seperate state, they want to drive the jews out and control all of Israel.
    In Response

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    July 16, 2014 2:31 PM
    Meanbill, where do you get your information from? What history book do you read that turns your knowledge upside down? Please go learn more to know who were the original owners of the land before you start talking nonsense. Before there was ever anything called Palestine, Israel had lived in the land for millenniums and centuries, go ask your father. You're not even ashamed to mention the 6day war. Well it's God's hand to return the land to Israel.

    by: lawrence from: Abidjan
    July 16, 2014 9:47 AM
    Hamas is a real terrorist organisation that decide to kill the Palestinian people,i think the palestians have to getogther and tell Hamas that they need peace will Isreal because hamas can not protect the palestinan in time of war......I think the money they are buy those rocket with can help to build the palestinian life....I believe Isreal is willing to live in peace with the palestinian people....cuz they are the same family....the problem there is Hamas...God help Isreal to love their Bro n sister......in war with them.

    by: Zanu from: VA
    July 16, 2014 9:18 AM
    Warning to the citizen of Gaza to leave - Where they will go? There is not a place, they are safe from Israel.
    In Response

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    July 16, 2014 2:06 PM
    This is a crazy thing to say, this people came from somewhere, why not return there? And even if there's no place else to go, this is war - a matter of life and death - they should find somewhere to save themselves - Egypt - Israel is sure to grant them a passage. And if they have had it up their nose, then let them face Hamas who have subjected them to the dilemma. If they get hard up with safety, they will surely turn against Hamas, unless they all have the same purpose; in that case let them take what they get. Their not turning against Hamas means they ar behind Hamas and so deserve what befalls them.
    In Response

    by: USMC from: USA
    July 16, 2014 1:49 PM
    "Zanu" Israel precision is legendary even by our standards... if Hamas did not confine its "citizens" (Arab hostages really) to announced targeted buildings - there would have been no civilians casualties. Hamas is Al Qaeda is the Muslim Brothrs, ISIL, Islamic Jihad, Hizbula... the list is endless and multiplied by the hour... we just have to stay the hell out of the filth of the ME.
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