(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) The military situation in and around Gaza dramatically deteriorated late on Tuesday shortly after Israel called back its team of negotiators in Cairo as the Palestinians accused Tel Aviv of snagging the Egyptian-mediated negotiations to cease hostilities and restore peace to the embattled Gaza strip.
In the latest development tonight, Izz-Eddine Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic movement, Hamas, said its gunners fired salvos of rockets in direction of Israeli cities, towns and settlements, including Tel Aviv and the International Ben Gurion Airport. It said in a statement that the key air facility was targeted with an M-80 missile, unleashed at 11:00 a.m. local time.
The faction said that it had warned Israel that it would paralyze operations at the airport in case Tel Aviv objected to establishing a sea port and an airport in Gaza at during the Cairo negotiations, which hit a serious deadlock tonight, shortly before the guns were heated up again along the demarcation lines skirting Gaza.
Meanwhile, Palestinian medical sources, in a revised report, said three Palestinians, a baby girl and two women, were killed when Israeli rocket-firing warplanes struck a three-storey building occupied by civilians in Sheikh Radwan district in the north of Gaza.
The sources said a 27-year-old man, who hailed from Khan Younes, who was wounded in the Israeli offensives three days ago, succumbed to his serious injuries.
With the latest deaths, the toll of Palestinians who have lost their life
since flare-up of the hostilities more than a month ago climbed to 2,019. Most of the deaths were civilians. Israel said it killed hundreds of gunmen in the fighting.
The Palestinian sources reported more than 30 Israeli air strikes tonight, and that at least 25 Palestinians were wounded due to these attacks. Rescuers and medics aided at least 15 people who were wounded in the air attack on the apartment building in Sheikh Radwan district as volunteers and workers sifted through rubble in search for victims.
An ambulance car was hit with a rocket in Jeher Al-Deek in south of the city. Five of its occupants were wounded and a third air strike targeted a group of citizens at At-Atatrah in northern Gaza, amid reports about casualties, according to the radios. A fourth raid aimed at the shell-damaged Al-Aqsa television channel building.
Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza were forced to flee their
homes in the evening for fear of the Israeli airstrikes. Many of them were seen heading to schools used as shelters, where they lived till few days ago.
Local media reports in the Strip said that Palestinians left their houses in Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahia (Northern Gaza) and Abasan and Rafah in the south.
The escalation came as rocket attacks carried out by Palestinian gunners entrenched in Gaza reached the Israeli capital Tel Aviv late on Tuesday. A spokesman of the Israeli Army said the Palestinian militants unleashed a wave of rockets in the direction of Tel Aviv. "Several explosions occurred in Tel Aviv tonight as sirens blared across the city," the military spokesman was quoted by Israel Radio as saying. The spokesman confirmed that Russian-made Grad rockets targeted the Israeli settlements, Beersheba, Netevot and Sedot Hangebe. However, the Israeli anti-missile network, the Iron Dome, intercepted some of the incoming rockets. He also reported several such attacks on other Israeli locations.
Meanwhile, Izz-Eddine Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic movement, Hamas, acknowledged its gunners launched tonight's missile attacks on Israel. The Brigades said Tel Aviv was targeted with an M-75 missile - one of a group of rockets the Palestinians locally fabricate in Gaza. Earlier, a rocket fired by the Palestinian gunners stationed in Gaza hit Ashdod city, central Israel, the spokesman said, indicating that its explosion caused no losses.
The spokesman told Israel Radio other rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip on areas in Al-Naqab (Negev) without causing any casualties.
On the political front, the Israeli negotiators returned to Israel from Cairo upon orders of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, amid a stalemate in the Egyptian-mediated negotiating process.
Israel Radio confirmed that the negotiators returned to Tel Aviv after Netanyahu ordered them back and shortly after Palestinian gunners unleashed a fresh salvo of rockets on Israeli towns and settlements.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Islamic group, Hamas, accused Netanyahu of seeking to torpedo the negotiations. "Netanyahu has chosen to foil the negotiations and resort to escalation .. and he should be prepared to pay for his senseless actions," said Hamas' spokesman in Gaza Fawzi Barhoum in a statement.
"The Palestinian factions are fully prepared to defend Gaza and are studying all options in light of the developments on the ground," he said.
Shortly earlier, Palestinian chief negotiator Azzam Al-Ahmad accused the Israeli delegation involved in talks on prospects of resolving the Gaza crisis of stalemating the negotiations.
There have been no progress whatsoever at the negotiating table and matters have become much more complicated, said Al-Ahmad, cited by the official Egyptian Middle East News Agency (MENA).
He added that the Palestinian delegation "had delivered the latest paper (of proposals on ceasing the fighting) two hours ago to the Egyptian side and we remained waiting for a reply till this moment." Egyptian officials have been mediating between the Israeli and Palestinian officials, engaged in the marathon talks in the Egyptian capital to enforce a viable truce to stop the fighting in Gaza, amid reports about proposals and counterpart proposals from the two sides - such as the Palestinians' key demand to lift the siege on the strip.
"The Israeli delegation is trying to dictate what they want and this is impossible," Al-Ahmad said, charging that the Israeli negotiators were adopting a policy of dodging and procrastination.
Al-Ahmad indicated that he and his fellow negotiators would wait for five hours to receive a reply to the latest paper of proposals on resolving the conflict. "We the Palestinians have been quite flexible," he said.
The Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed the Egyptian-mediated indirect talks today, after agreeing to extend a truce for 24 hours, however, it appeared to have been breached with renewed hostilities.