• Thursday, December 18, 2014

Freedom in the air

Truce collapses in six minutes

Killing child, Israel resumes Gaza strikes; Hamas tunnel network 'almost destroyed'; death toll 1,865

Agencies
Life in the chaos of death: A little girl holds her new sister, who was born at a UN school in Gaza over the weekend. The baby has been named Gaza Tqawem Nedal Hojelai. Photo: Mail Online
Life in the chaos of death: A little girl holds her new sister, who was born at a UN school in Gaza over the weekend. The baby has been named Gaza Tqawem Nedal Hojelai. Photo: Mail Online

A Gaza ceasefire collapsed in just six minutes yesterday morning after an Israeli F16 jet destroyed a house in a beach-side refugee camp, killing an eight-year-old girl and wounding dozens.

Witnesses and several journalists based at a nearby hotel, reported hearing the whistle of a missile fired from an F16 warplane before it crashed into a three-story house wedged between two tall buildings inside the beachfront Shati refugee camp.

An AFP correspondent said the strike hit at 0706 GMT - just six minutes into the ceasefire. An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was checking the refugee camp attack and said four rockets had been fired from Gaza since the truce started and two had crashed inside Israel.

With only a narrow alley leading to the house, it was not possible to get rescue equipment to the scene, with a long line of people passing out chunks of rubble by hand. 

After about half an hour, they managed to pull the body of a young girl wearing pyjamas out of the rubble - her spine appeared to be broke in several places.

“Just after 10am, an F16 fired at the houses. There is no truce. How could there be a truce, they are liars, they don't even respect their own commitments,” raged Ayman Mahmud, who lives in the neighbourhood.

At least 20 Gazans were killed yesterday, Palestinian officials said, including two in an Israeli airstrike next to a desalination plant.

With UN figures indicating most of the 1,865 people killed in Gaza so far were civilians, the world has stepped up its demands for an end to the bloodshed.

Israel had declared a seven-hour “humanitarian window” in Gaza amid international outrage at the third deadly attack on a UN school sheltering displaced Palestinians and mounting pressure for the bloodshed to end.

The Israeli ceasefire in Gaza had exempted the area around the southern town of Rafah, where the UN school was struck on Sunday, and fighting continued there. Troops were working on destroying a cross-border tunnel in the area.

A separate strike killed Daniel Mansour, a commander in the Islamic Jihad group, a close ally of Gaza's militant Palestinian Hamas rulers, the group said.

The British Foreign Office said it was “urgently investigating” claims that a British aid worker had been killed in the Gaza town of Rafah.

Jerusalem was the scene of what police said were two suspected terrorist attacks, amid clashes between Palestinian youths protesting over the Gaza conflict and Israeli security forces.

Meanwhile, Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner said the Israel Defence Forces were close to completing their mission to destroy the network of tunnels leading into Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel had “no intention of attacking the residents of Gaza”.

He said the Gaza campaign was continuing. “What is about to conclude is the IDF action to deal with the tunnels but this operation will end only when quiet and security are restored to the citizens of Israel for a lengthy period."

Hamas said it did not trust Israel's motives for declaring yesterday's unilateral ceasefire.

The attack on a UN school, killing at least 10 people and injuring dozens more, was denounced as a “moral outrage and a criminal act” by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

The Israel Defence Forces had been “repeatedly informed of the location of these sites,” said Ban.

The IDF began withdrawing forces from Gaza on Sunday in what the military described as a “new phase” in the 28-day conflict. “The troops are in the midst of redeployment to other parts of the border,” said Lerner. “Indeed we are releasing troops from the front line but the mission is ongoing. Ground forces are operating. Air forces are operating.”

Efforts to forge a truce resumed in Cairo on Sunday, with Middle East envoy Tony Blair and US special envoy Frank Lowenstein flying in, along with a Palestinian delegation which included representative of the main militant groups in Gaza, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. However Israel declined to send a team to join the talks, in an indication it wants to proceed on its own terms, diminishing prospects for an early breakthrough.

[Reports from The Guardian, Mail Online and AFP]

Published: 12:01 am Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Last modified: 9:52 pm Tuesday, August 05, 2014

TAGS: Israel Jerusalem Gaza truce refugee camp Israel violated Police shot

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