Israeli soldiers work on their tanks near the Israel Gaza Border, early July 15, 2014. The Israeli Cabinet has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire to end a week of conflict with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip that has killed 185 Palestinians and exposed millions of Israelis to Hamas rocket fire. No Israelis have been killed as a result of Hamas rocket launches. A senior Hamas official says the Palestinian militant group rejects an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel. (Ariel Schalit / AP)
Gaza City, Gaza Strip— Israel resumed its heavy bombardment of Gaza on Tuesday and warned that Hamas “would pay the price” after the Islamic militant group rejected an Egyptian truce plan and instead unleashed more rocket barrages at the Jewish state.
Late Tuesday, the military urged tens of thousands of residents of northern and eastern Gaza to leave their homes by this morning, presumably a prelude to air strikes there.
Rocket fire from Gaza militants killed an Israeli man Tuesday, the first Israeli fatality in eight days of fighting. In Gaza, 197 people were killed and close to 1,500 wounded so far, Palestinian officials said, making it the deadliest Israel-Hamas confrontation in just over five years.
The Egyptian proposal, initially accepted by Israel, had been the first attempt to end the fighting.
It unraveled in less than a day, a sign that it will be harder than before to reach a truce. Hamas does not consider Egypt’s current rulers — who deposed a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo a year ago — to be fair brokers.
Hamas believes it has little to lose by continuing to fight, while a truce on unfavorable terms could further weaken its grip on the Gaza Strip, a territory it seized in 2007. Underscoring that position, Gaza militants fired more than 120 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel on Tuesday, during what Egypt had hoped would be a period of de-escalation.
A particularly heavy barrage came around dusk, with more than 40 rockets hitting Israel in just a few minutes, including one that fell on an empty school. TV footage showed children cowering behind a wall in Tel Aviv’s main square as sirens went off. An Israeli man in his 30s was killed near the Gaza border when he was delivering food to soldiers — the first Israeli death.
Hamas’ defiance prompted Israeli warnings. In an evening address aired live on TV, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that after Hamas’ rejection of the truce, Israel had “no choice” but to respond more forcefully.
After holding its fire for six hours, the Israeli air force resumed its heavy bombardment of Gaza, launching 33 strikes from midafternoon, the military said. In all, Israeli aircraft struck close to 1,700 times since July 8, while Gaza militants fired more than 1,200 rockets at Israel.
Late Tuesday, the Israeli military told residents of the northern town of Beit Lahiya and the Gaza City neighborhoods of Shijaiyah and Zeitoun in automated phone calls to leave their homes by early today.
Hamas officials Tuesday rejected the current Egyptian plan as is, noting they weren’t consulted by Cairo. Some saw the offer as an ultimatum.
The officials said the Egyptian plan offered no tangible achievements, particularly on easing the border blockade that has been enforced by Israel and Egypt to varying degrees since 2007.