Israel threatens to step up Gaza campaign

Netanyahu warns Israel will intensify offensive after Hamas says it was not consulted on Egyptian truce proposal.

Gaza City  Israel has resumed air strikes on the Gaza Strip just hours after agreeing to an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire on which the Palestinian group Hamas said it was never consulted. 

Fresh air strikes were launched on Gaza at around 12:00GMT on Tuesday after Hamas fired nearly 76 rockets at Israel since 9am, the Israeli army said. “We have resumed our operation against Hamas,” the army tweeted.

But Hamas official, Mushir al-Massri, told Al Jazeera that the group was never involved in the formulation of the ceasefire and only learned about it from media reports.

He said his group rejected the proposal “in style because no body consulted with us in formatting it, [and] in content because its articles are a free service to the [Israeli] occupation”.

The Israeli cabinet approved the proposal on Tuesday morning, which would have put an end to the week-long conflict that has killed 196 Palestinians and injured 1,489 others in the Palestinian enclave.

The violence claimed the first Israeli fatality late on Tuesday. An Israeli man died of his wounds after Hamas said it launched a rocket at Erez border crossing.

At least 10 Israelis have been injured by rockets fired from Gaza during the conflict.

On Tuesday, Israel’s prime minister said his country would intensify its offensive on Gaza.

“It would have been preferable to have solved this diplomatically, and this is what we tried to do when we accepted the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire, but Hamas leaves us no choice but to expand and intensify the campaign against it,” Benjamin Netanyahu said. 

In remarks made alongside the visiting German foreign minister, Netanyahu suggested that the agreement would be used to completely “disarm” the strip, a condition Hamas and other groups would not accept.

“The Egyptian proposal gives the opportunity to address the disarmament of [Gaza]… through political means,” Netanyahu said.

“But if Hamas will not accept the proposal for a ceasefire, as it appears right now, Israel will have international legitimacy to expand the military operation.”

Hamas has demanded that Israel stop its aggression in Gaza, reduce restrictions on movement in and out of the territory, and release the dozens of Palestinian prisoners that were freed in a prisoner swap in 2011, but were subsequently rearrested.

RELATED: Israeli cabinet approves Egyptian truce plan

The two most hawkish members of the Israeli security cabinet, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, voted against the ceasefire.

Politicians on the centre-left supported it, though Isaac Herzog, the head of the opposition, warned that it would be “worthless and just another break before the next escalation” if it did not lead to meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians.

Israel can let the Egyptian proposal and mediation continue, and at the same time escalate, including a possible ground operation in Gaza.

by - Shlomo Brom, retired Israeli general

Danny Ayalon, a former deputy foreign minister, said that “the [Israeli army] will have to enter Gaza” if the ceasefire is not agreed by tonight, implying a possible ground operation.

“Israel can let the Egyptian proposal and mediation continue, and at the same time escalate, including a possible ground operation in Gaza,” said Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli general. “Because actually, all of these steps are measures to place pressure on Hamas.”

At Gaza City’s main hospital, al-Shifa, dozens of people gathered on Tuesday morning, holding shoes and slippers, to protest the arrival of Palestinian Health Minister Jawwad Awad from the West Bank. Awad is expected to inspect the healthcare situation in Gaza.

“Abbas is [a] spy, Hamdallah is [a] traitor,” the young men shouted, referring to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Rami Hamdallah, the prime minster of the new Palestinian consensus government.

An outgoing Palestinian rocket was heard during the protest, and traces of smoke were seen overheard.

“Strike, strike, Tel Aviv,” the crowd chanted.

In southern Israel there was little faith that the truce would hold. Cafes and shops were emptier than usual and rocket sirens rang out about every 30 minutes.

“It’s a joke. It makes the state and the army look weak,” said Udi Lazarov, a resident of Ashdod, a southern city where a rocket hit a house on Tuesday morning. “We should finish the job.”

Fares Akram reported from Gaza City, and Gregg Carlstrom from Ashdod, Israel

Source: Al Jazeera