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Israel approves, Hamas rejects Egyptian-proposed Gaza truce

Israel approves, Hamas rejects Egyptian-proposed Gaza truce
Israel announced it will agree to an Egyptian-backed ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, the security cabinet has stated. However, the peace plan looks in ruins, with Hamas rejecting the initiative, saying “this proposal is not acceptable.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet had convened to vote on the deal at Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv. The agreement was made minutes before the proposed truce was due to come into effect at 06:00 GMT. The ceasefire will come into effect immediately.

Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defense official and envoy to Cairo, cast the deal in a positive light, saying Hamas had been weakened by the air and sea bombardment of impoverished Gaza.

"Look at the balance, and you see that Hamas tried every possible means of striking at Israel while bringing great and terrible damage on its people, from their perspective," Gilad told Israel's Army Radio. However, Hamas says it’s likely to reject an Egyptian ceasefire proposal for the current Israel-Gaza conflict. The militant group said it had not officially received the text of the agreement, but believed it to be "an initiative of kneeling and submission."

A Palestinian man stands on the rubble of a destroyed building following an Israeli military strike on Beit Lahya, in the northern Gaza Strip on July 15, 2014. (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)

Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official rejected the proposal because it was deemed to be unacceptable. Previously, the al-Qassam Brigades had shown little interest in getting to the negotiation table.

“Our battle with the enemy continues and will increase in ferocity and intensity,” the group stated.

Palestinian sources told Haaretz that despite recent declarations by Hamas officials in opposition to the Egyptian offer, it is possible that in the next few hours Hamas' political leadership will hold direct talks with Egyptian intelligence in an effort to accept the cease-fire proposal.

Hamas' political chief Khaled Meshal or his deputy Ismail Haniyeh is expected to release an official statement later Tuesday. The statement depends on how the talks between Hamas' leadership and Egypt progress in the coming hours.

Israel sees in the Egyptian-proposed Gaza truce an opportunity to strip the Palestinian enclave of rockets but is prepared to redouble military action there if the cross-border launches persist, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

"We agreed to the Egyptian proposal in order to give an opportunity for the demilitarisation of the (Gaza) Strip - from missiles, from rockets and from tunnels - through diplomatic means," he told reporters.

"But if Hamas does not accept the ceasefire proposal, as would now seem to be the case, Israel would have all international legitimacy to broaden the military operation to achieve the required quiet," Netanyahu added.

Palestinians carry their belongings as they walk amongst the debris of a house which police said was hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City July 15, 2014. (Reuters / Mohammed Salem)

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets at Israel on Tuesday after the Israeli government accepted, and Hamas Islamists said they rejected, an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire.

Live television showed the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepting several rockets over the port city of Ashdod and sirens sounded in other parts of southern Israel. Israel Radio said a factory in Ashdod was hit, but there was no immediate word of casualties.

Channel Two TV said 10 rockets had been launched. The Israeli military, which said it had stopped its attacks in Gaza, reported before the Ashdod strike that three rockets had been fired since the ceasefire deal was to have gone into effect.

Earlier on Tuesday morning, three rockets were fired from Egypt towards the southern Israeli resort of Eilat. Four civilians were injured, according to Israeli security officials. They added that they believed the rockets were fired by Islamist militants in the Egyptian Sinai in an attempt to derail Cairo’s efforts to mediate a truce between Israel and Palestine and put an end to the week-long shelling of the Gaza Strip.

In response to the Egyptian proposal, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said on Monday that his movement would not accept any truce that excludes the conditions of the Palestinian groups and people, as quoted by Israeli media.

In a televised address, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh praised the role of Hamas fighters and denounced the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

“The problem is not the truce, but the siege and starvation of Gaza Strip,” Haniyeh stressed. "The problem is not going back to the agreement on calm because we want this aggression to stop."

Since the start of Israel's military operation on Tuesday, 184 people – mostly civilians – have been killed by airstrikes in Gaza, Palestinian medics said.