Hamas rejects Israeli offer to extend cease-fire

After period of retrieving bodies, rockets resume

Israeli reserve soldiers enjoyed a meal at a restaurant in the town of Sderot on Saturday, a short time before the end of the 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire with Hamas ended.
Atef Safadi/EPA
Israeli reserve soldiers enjoyed a meal at a restaurant in the town of Sderot on Saturday, a short time before the end of the 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire with Hamas ended.

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip — Hamas resumed rocket attacks on Israel late Saturday after rejecting Israel’s offer to extend a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire by a day, casting more doubts on international efforts to end 19 days of fighting.

As Israel’s security Cabinet met to consider a UN request for the broader extension, sirens signaling incoming rockets sounded over central and southern cities. Eleven rockets were fired at Israel over the next three hours, four of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, officials said. Three mortar shells landed in open areas.

Despite extending the truce by 24 hours, Israeli officials said the military could respond to further attacks from Gaza, the Associated Press reported.


Earlier Saturday, families across the Gaza Strip emerged from shelters during the initial cease-fire to survey the damage to their neighborhoods, collect belongings, and help dig bodies from the rubble.

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Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said there had been no agreement on extending the lull until midnight, and Hamas later claimed responsibility for firing two rockets at Tel Aviv.

Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting in Paris with Arab and European foreign ministers, pressed for an extension of the 12-hour humanitarian pause, repeating his argument that any temporary truce must be followed by an enduring solution that would address both the Palestinians’ desire to break free of the economic embargo of Gaza and the Israelis’ security needs.

Chief among those needs are a halt to rocket fire by Palestinian militants on Israeli cities and towns and the destruction of an extensive tunnel network built by Hamas to sneak fighters into Israel and store weapons.

“I understand that Israel can’t have a cease-fire” in which “the tunnels are never going to be dealt with,” Kerry said. “The tunnels have to be dealt with.


“By the same token, the Palestinians can’t have a cease-fire in which they think the status quo is going to stay,” he said. “Palestinians need to live with dignity, with some freedom, with goods that can come in and out, and they need a life that is free from the current restraints.”

Kerry met with diplomats from Turkey, Qatar, Germany, Britain, and Italy, along with a representative of the European Union.

He later met separately with Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah, the Qatari foreign minister, and Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister. Qatar and Turkey support Hamas and have served as intermediaries with Khaled Meshal, the group’s political head, who resides in Doha.

The secretary of state had hoped that a succession of short truces might yield enough latitude to begin unwinding the conflict.

Palestinians in Gaza got a taste of what that might look like during the cease-fire on Saturday.


Here in Beit Hanoun, a hard-hit town in northern Gaza, Akram Qassim, 53, stared in disbelief at a huge smoking crater strewn with rubble and twisted metal from an Israeli airstrike, all that remained of the three-story house he had shared with his two brothers and their families.

“I expected that maybe a shell had hit it and caused some damage,” Qassim said. “But this is an earthquake.”

Four houses clustered nearby had also been reduced to piles of rubble. “Are all these houses tunnels?” Qassim asked.

The truce also allowed Palestinians to dig bodies from the rubble. More than 100 were recovered from battle zones across Gaza on Saturday, including 21 members of one family, driving the total Palestinian death toll to more than 1,020.

Five more Israeli soldiers were also reported killed, bringing the Israeli death toll to 43, including three civilians.

For Palestinians, the majority of the dead have been civilians. Palestinians see the war as a new case of Israeli aggression and believe that Israel has done little to protect civilians or their property from the devastation wrought by its airstrikes.

But Hamas is known to place weapons and fighters in residential neighborhoods and other places where civilians gather, including mosques.

No casualties were reported from Saturday’s rocket attacks on Israel. Police in Tel Aviv dispersed a peace rally attended by several thousand people because of the threat of Hamas rockets, the Associated Press reported.