Strikes, counter strikes in the Mideast

By Saeed Ahmed, CNN

updated 7:57 AM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • NEW: Gaza Health Ministry: 19 people have been killed in renewed Israeli strikes
  • Hamas: Airstrike targets head of its armed wing, the Qassam Brigades
  • Each side blames the other for the breakdown of the truce
  • Peace talks in Cairo tried to achieve difficult goals

(CNN) — Strikes and counter strikes between Israel and Hamas resumed as talks aimed at agreeing to a longer-term truce fell apart.

Since midnight, when the truce that crumbled Tuesday was due to end, 87 rockets were fired on Israel from Gaza. The Israeli military said 59 exploded and 12 were intercepted.

Sirens warning of rocket fire repeatedly wailed above Israeli communities Wednesday. One rocket struck a home in the Ashkelon area but no injuries were reported.

Israel has retaliated with airstrikes on Gaza, attacking some 80 suspected militant sites. The attacks have killed 19 people and injured more than 130, the Gaza Health Ministry said Wednesday.

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An Israeli soldier smokes a cigarette in a large concrete pipe used as shelter at an army deployment point near the Israeli-Gaza border on Wednesday, August 20. Israel launched a ground operation in Gaza on July 17 after a 10-day campaign of airstrikes failed to halt Hamas rocket fire on Israeli cities.An Israeli soldier smokes a cigarette in a large concrete pipe used as shelter at an army deployment point near the Israeli-Gaza border on Wednesday, August 20. Israel launched a ground operation in Gaza on July 17 after a 10-day campaign of airstrikes failed to halt Hamas rocket fire on Israeli cities.

Israel-Gaza crisis

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Photos: Israel-Gaza crisisPhotos: Israel-Gaza crisis

Gaza residents returning home

Hamas said one such strike targeted Mohammed Deif, the head of its armed wing, the Qassam Brigades. But it killed Deif’s wife and 7-month-old-son instead, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

The Israeli military said it was looking into the claim.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior spokesman for Hamas, posted on Twitter that Israel would “pay a heavy price” for its “crimes against Palestinian civilians.” He said the conflict around Gaza would not end unless Deif decided it should and unless Israel committed to halting violence and lifting its siege of the territory.

The blame game

As has been the case throughout the conflict, each side blamed the other.

Palestinian negotiators placed the blame for the lack of progress in peace talks on the Israelis. Israel blamed Gaza militants for breaking the truce.

But it was unclear exactly what happened.

In one interpretation, the Israelis left Cairo, the venue for the talks, after they gave up on negotiations.

In another interpretation, the Israelis took the newest proposal home with them to share with their government.

“The chances of an agreement are very slim, and the situation is very difficult,” said a Palestinian leader, Izzat Risheq.

Difficult bargain

The talks were bound to be difficult because of what they tried to achieve.

Israel wanted Gaza to be demilitarized, demanding that Hamas, which controls the territory, and other militant groups lay down their arms.

Risheq said Monday that the group’s weapons were “for self-defense” against Israel.

“But when we have our own Palestinian state with its own national army to protect its citizens, there will be no need for any party to carry any kind of weapons,” he said.

Palestinians wanted Israel’s blockade to end, saying it is throttling the economy of the small, impoverished strip of land and the lives of its inhabitants.

Among their demands are the rebuilding and reopening of Gaza’s airport and the establishment of a seaport.

But Israeli authorities — who retain control of Gaza’s airspace, Mediterranean waters and their shared border — say releasing their grip on what goes into and out of the territory isn’t feasible while Hamas and other groups are still building up their arsenals of weapons.

The latest conflict, which began in early July, has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, leaving entire Gaza neighborhoods in rubble.

The violence has killed 67 people on the Israeli side, with militants in Gaza firing roughly 3,500 rockets toward Israel.

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