GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AFP) ― Israeli warplanes pummeled Gaza with 50 air strikes that killed eight Palestinians Saturday as militants slammed 24 rockets into Israel amid mounting calls for a fresh cease-fire.
Britain, France and Germany on Saturday urged Israel and Hamas to agree on a truce at once.
“We call upon all parties immediately to return to a cease-fire. We fully support the ongoing efforts by Egypt to this end,” said the statement from foreign ministers Laurent Fabius of France, Philip Hammond of Britain and Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany.
A Palestinian official said that indirect negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza were expected to resume in Cairo on Sunday with an Israeli delegation scheduled to arrive in the city, where a Palestinian team and Egyptian mediators are waiting.
An Israeli official said that talks could not take place until Palestinian rocket fire came to a halt.
“The Egyptian initiative was based on two stages in a consecutive order,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“First, unconditional ceasefire, and after the implementation of an unconditional cease-fire there would be discussions in Cairo,” he said. “The first stage has still not been implemented.”
The army said that no rockets had been fired since 16:30 GMT.
Gaza emergency services said eight men were killed in Israeli raids ― one in the southern Gaza town of Deir el-Balah, two in Rafah, two traveling by motorcycle through Al-Maghazi refugee camp and three pulled from the rubble of Al-Qassam mosque in the middle of the enclave.
The Palestinian Interior Ministry said Israeli jets destroyed three mosques. At least two of them were considered close to Hamas.
Gazan Ibrahim Taweel said the Israeli military telephoned him at 3 a.m., warning him to evacuate his nearby home five minutes before the mosque was attacked.
“I couldn’t tell all my neighbors, so I evacuated myself and my neighbor and after five minutes an F-16 fired one rocket and after that a bigger rocket destroyed the mosque,” he said.
|Smoke rises in Gaza City after an Israeli air strike Saturday. (AP-Yonhap)|
The army said 24 rockets rained on Israel, bringing to 62 the number of projectiles launched at the Jewish state since a 72-hour truce ended on Friday morning.
One Israeli civilian and a soldier were wounded on Friday.
Israel said it had carried out more than 100 strikes in Gaza since Friday morning, 49 of them on Saturday, targeting those responsible for the rocket fire.
In the occupied West Bank, 15 Palestinian youths were injured in clashes with Israeli troops, who used rubber bullets and live fire to disperse stone throwers in the town of Hebron, medics said.
The trouble broke out after the funeral of a Palestinian man shot dead by Israeli troops during protests against the Gaza operation on Friday, witnesses said.
Similar clashes also erupted in Ramallah. Israeli troops responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
The 72-hour truce collapsed after mediators in Cairo failed to extend a cease-fire on Friday morning as Israel accused Hamas of breaching the quiet with pre-dawn rocket attacks.
The conflict has now killed at least 1,914 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side, almost all soldiers, since July 8.
The United Nations says at least 1,354 of the Palestinian dead were civilians, including 447 children.
In London, up to 150,000 protesters packed Oxford Street, marching to the U.S. Embassy and on to Hyde Park, many of them chanting “Free, Free Palestine” and holding up banners saying “U.K. ― Stop Arming Israel.”
Tens of thousands of demonstrators also marched through Cape Town to protest the Israeli military operation, one of the biggest rallies in the city since the end of apartheid.
The lifting of Israel’s land and sea blockade, imposed in 2006 after Hamas captured an Israeli soldier, has been a key demand of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in Cairo talks.
A Palestinian official said on condition of anonymity that Egypt and the Palestinians had reached a draft agreement for submission to Israel on Saturday.
It would see Egypt and the Palestinian Authority take control of the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, essentially activating part of a unity accord Hamas signed with the PA in April.
Negotiations on the sea port, demanded by Hamas, would then be delayed and entrusted to the PA, with whom Israel is prepared to deal.
Israel waged the conflict to destroy Hamas’s arsenal of rockets and its network of attack tunnels.
But combat has not resumed at the same fierce intensity, feeding hopes of a new truce bring agreed.
“Our hope is that the parties will agree to an extension of the ceasefire in the coming hours,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
Chris Gunness, spokesman for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, called for the Gaza blockade to end so reconstruction can begin.
“Huge swathes of Gaza have been levelled. We cannot rebuild it with our hands tied behind our backs,” he said. “The blockade must end.”
At least 65,000 people have had their homes destroyed, and UNRWA said
222,000 people are still sheltering in 89 U.N. schools.