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Hopes for Mideast cease-fire dashed as Israel resumes airstrikes on Gaza

July 15, 2014 at 8:18 PM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: Hopes of a potential stop to the violence gripping the Middle East were dashed today as aerial bombardment from both sides continued; 197 Palestinians have died during the eight days of violence. The first Israeli casualty came today.

Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports on why Hamas rejected an Egyptian-proposed cease-fire.

MARGARET WARNER: Israel resumed airstrikes on Gaza this afternoon after a lull of six hours. It’s cabinet had originally accepted, and honored, an Egyptian cease-fire proposal. But Hamas kept firing rockets, some again intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system.

With that, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the counteroffensive would resume with greater force.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel: If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal and the rocket fire from Gaza doesn’t cease — and that appears to be the case now — we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation to protect our people. And for this, we expect full support from the responsible members of the international community.

MARGARET WARNER: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction controls the West Bank, urged Hamas to accept the truce. In April, the two factions formed a unity government, but Hamas runs Gaza.

A spokesman for the militant group said it rejected the cease-fire because Hamas had not been consulted.

SAMI ABU ZUHRI, Hamas Spokesman (through interpreter): The idea of declaring cease-fire before meeting the terms of the resistance is unacceptable. We will not stop fighting before reaching an agreement that includes all the terms of the Palestinian resistance.

MARGARET WARNER: Those terms include releasing Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and reopening border crossings with Egypt.

In Vienna, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Arab states to bring their influence to bear.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We ask all the members of the Arab community, as they did yesterday at the Arab League meeting in Cairo, to continue to press to try to get Hamas to do the right thing here, which is cease the violence, engage in a legitimate negotiation, and protect the lives of people that they seem all too willing to put to risk.

MARGARET WARNER: Meanwhile, thousands of Israeli troops remain positioned near the Gaza border. A food delivery man was killed by a mortar blast today, Israel’s first fatality since the fighting began.

At a Jerusalem news conference, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for an outright takeover of Gaza.

AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN, Foreign Minister, Israel (through interpreter): The answer must be clear. There is a need to lead. There is a need to end this operation when the Israeli army is in control over the whole Gaza Strip.