Hamas says Israel strike threatens truce

Hamas says Israel strike threatens truce
No casualties in the first airstrikes since August truce as Egypt plans temporary relief at Rafah crossing to allow thousands of Palestinians stranded since November to return home.
3 min read
20 December, 2014
Hamas says Israeli violations are endangering a truce that has done little for Gazans )AFP)
Hamas Saturday said constant Israeli “tampering” is threatening an August ceasefire after Israel launched it first airstrikes on Gaza since August 26.

Israeli aircraft early Saturday hit Khan Younes in the south after the Israeli army said a rocket had been fired from the impoverished and isolated strip.

A spokesman for Gaza's health ministry said there were no casualties in the air strike, which came just hours after the homemade rocket hit an open field in southern Israel on Friday, also without causing casualties or damage.

But Hamas said the strikes are part of a series of Israeli violations of the Egyptian-brokered truce that ended a 51-day Israeli military assault earlier this year that left over 2,100 Palestinians dead.

“Israeli airstrikes this morning and the continuous targeting of fishermen and farmers tamper with the ceasefire agreement,” Salah Bardawil, a Hamas leader, said in a statement.

“The daily violations and the delay in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip are clear violations of the truce.”

A Gazan fishermen was killed in September by the Israeli navy which enforces a sea blockade on the strip. The delivery of much-needed construction materials, meanwhile, has been held up at borders and in transit due to stringent Israeli security controls.

Elsewhere, Egypt, which administers the only crossing into Gaza not controlled by Israel, said it intends to reopen the Rafah border crossing with Gaza Sunday for only the second time in two months to allow Palestinians stranded in Egypt to enter the Palestinian territory, officials said.

It was shut by Egypt in late October following a deadly bombing in the Sinai Peninsula, reopening briefly at the end of November to allow Palestinians stuck in Egypt to return home.

Police official Ali al-Azazi told AFP that the crossing will be open Sunday for two days. "Egypt will open the Rafah crossing Sunday and Monday to allow those stranded on the Egyptian side to go to Gaza," he said.

More than 3,500 Palestinians were stranded when Egypt closed the crossing after a suicide attack killed 30 soldiers in North Sinai on October 24, the United Nations said last month.

It was not immediately clear how many of them are still stranded.

Egypt accuses Hamas of aiding Sinai militants. The Palestinian resistance movement denies the accusation.

Many Palestinians who travel through Rafah are students heading to universities in Egypt or beyond, or patients in need of medical treatment not available in Gaza.

The isolation of Gaza has left Palestinians there desperately undersupplied, whether in terms of basic goods, or in their ability to build any form of economy. The impoverished strip mostly relies on international aid.

The closure on Gaza also means Palestinians have been unable to rebuild or repair the huge devastation caused by consecutive Israeli military assaults – in 2009-10, 2012, and this year. These have only added to the distress of a population of nearly two million people, the vast majority of whom are refugees or their descendants from 1948, when Zionist militias pushed out Palestinians to ensure a Jewish majority in the nascent Israeli state.

The rocket late Friday was the third instance of fire from Gaza since the August 26 truce between Israel and the territory's de facto rulers Hamas. The Israeli army said the air strike had “targeted a Hamas terror infrastructure site”.

Neither Hamas, nor any other Palestinian faction, have claimed responsibility for the rocket launch but Israel holds the Islamist movement responsible for any rocket fire from Gaza regardless of who carries it out.

The Egyptian-brokered August ceasefire was supposed to have been followed by talks on a more lasting truce but they were called off amid deteriorating relations between Cairo and Hamas, which the Egyptian government under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, considers a part of Egypt’s own, now criminalised, Muslim Brotherhood.