Israel on proposed cease-fire: Ball is in Hamas’ court

A Palestinian man looks on as flames engulf the fuel tanks of the only power plant supplying electricity to the Gaza Strip after it was hit by overnight Israeli shelling, on July 29, 2014, in the south of Gaza City. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

A Palestinian man looks on as flames engulf the fuel tanks of the only power plant supplying electricity to the Gaza Strip after it was hit by overnight Israeli shelling, on July 29, 2014, in the south of Gaza City. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

GAZA (CNN) — Regarding the possibility of a cease-fire, a spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister said Tuesday that the “ball is in Hamas’ court.”

Mark Regev also said on CNN that Israel is “ready for for a period of sustained peace and security” but asserted that Hamas has consistently rejected truces and repeatedly accepted an Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire.

Earlier, a senior Israeli official told CNN Tuesday that Israel is “prepared for a cease-fire” but no agreement had been reached. Hamas had rejected a call from Palestinian leadership in the West Bank for a 24-hour truce.

A report by official Palestinian news agency WAFA said Palestinian leadership was offering a 24-hour truce, which could be extended to 72 hours, and that the idea had support from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another militant group in Gaza.

But Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the WAFA report was not true and “not related to the resistance,” which “speaks for itself.”

“When we get guarantees from the Zionists for an international mediation regarding a humanitarian pause, then we can consider it,” he said on Hamas TV.

Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan then told CNN by phone from Beirut that Hamas is open to the idea, proposed by President Mahmoud Abbas, of sending a Palestinian delegation to Egypt that could perhaps lead to a cease fire proposal.

Israel repeatedly has condemned Hamas for rejecting the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire that Israel agreed to. Some temporary cease-fires have taken place throughout the conflict, with each side quickly accusing the other of violating it.

In Washington Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry defended the Obama administration’s efforts to seek a cease-fire and sloughed off strong Israeli public criticism of his initiative. He also said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “consistently said he would embrace a cease-fire that permits Israel to protect itself against the tunnels” used by Palestinian militants in Gaza.

“We are working very carefully, and I think thoughtfully, with our Israeli friends in order to be able to find a way to reduce the civilian loss of life, to prevent this from spiraling downwards into a place from which, you know, both sides have difficulty finding a way forward in order to address the underlying kinds of issues,” Kerry said.

While leaders talk, the lights in Gaza flickered on and off in many homes after its only power plant was hit.

Palestinian officials blamed an Israeli airstrike.

At least 40% of Gaza’s fuel had been burned by early Tuesday, according to Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Energy Natural Resources Authority in Gaza. The plant will have to be reconstructed and will not operate as it did for at least a year, he said.

“We cannot supply electricity” for hospitals, sewage treatment or domestic use, he said. “This is a disaster.”

He demanded that Israel supply Gaza with the power needed to make up for what was lost.

“We demand from Israel, since it is directly responsible to what happened to the power plant, to immediately substitute this quantity of electricity to Gaza, else they are responsible for all the humanitarian consequences in Gaza.”

There was no immediate comment from Israel on whether the military believes it was Israeli fire that hit the power supply.

Israel reported that overnight it struck four “massive weapons caches that Hamas hid inside of mosques.”

Refugee camp hit, ‘terror sites’ targeted

The Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza was shelled Tuesday, Hamas said. A medical official said more than 10 people were killed.

“Witnesses have told paramedics that entire families are still buried under the rubble,” said Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, Israel reported that five people were seen emerging from a tunnel shaft in Gaza. They fired at Israeli troops, who “responded and engaged the perptrators,” the IDF said. “In addition, forces uncovered ammunition which included AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns and explosive devices. Since midnight, the IDF targeted over 110 terror sites.”

The fighting increased in some areas — particularly Gaza City. “A night of intensified violence has exacerbated Gaza’s human displacement crisis,” Chris Gunness, spokesman for the U.N. agency in Gaza, said on Twitter. More than 180,000 displaced Palestinians have packed into 82 shelters, he said.

More than 1,100 Palestinians have died, according to medical officials in Gaza. The number of militants killed is unclear, but the United Nations estimates more than 70% of the dead were civilians.

Fifty-three Israeli soldiers have died since Operation Protective Edge began July 8. Three civilians have been killed in Israel as well.

Israel has uncovered 32 tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle weapons and launch attacks, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Netanyahu said Monday the military will not end its incursion into Gaza until it has destroyed the tunnels.

“We need to be prepared for a protracted campaign in Gaza,” he said on Israeli television Monday.

Hamas has an estimated 10,000 rockets, more than a quarter of which have been fired into Israel in the past few weeks, the IDF said.

Hamas-run television reported early Tuesday that Israeli strikes hit the Ministry of Finance in western Gaza and the house of Ismail Haniyeh, a senior political leader of Hamas. A radio station run by Hamas was bombed.

Conflict claims children

Eight children were among 10 people killed Monday in a refugee camp near the beach in Gaza, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

Israel says Hamas’ misfired rockets were responsible for the deaths. The IDF released images on Twitter that it said showed the launch site of three rockets that struck the Shati refugee camp and Shifa hospital. But Hamas blamed an Israeli drone, and some witnesses did as well.

The children were playing in the street near their homes when an explosion shook the ground. Holes as large as fists pockmarked a nearby building.

One boy in the neighborhood, 8-year-old Anas, described a horrific scene.

“I saw a boy all cut up right here. Over there a man … he looked dead, and I saw a boy who was dead too,” he said.

“Glass sprayed on me. It was so loud, so terrifying. I can’t even describe it,” said 12-year-old Olaa.

More than 200 children have been killed in Gaza since the conflict began, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The deaths Monday came as Palestinians celebrated Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

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