GAZA CITY, Gaza — Despite a 24-hour cease-fire proposal, Israel and Hamas continued launching attacks Sunday, adding over a dozen fatalities to the sky-high death-toll accrued in nearly three-weeks of conflict.
Hamas asked for a cease-fire hours after Israel resumed attacks on the enclave, but 494 rockets were launched at Israel, including nine intercepted by Iron Dome, officials said.
“Hamas is suggesting the cease-fire and believe it or not … they've even violated their own cease-fire,” Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army launched more than 40 attacks on the Gaza strip Sunday, killing 15 people, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. More than 1,030 Palestinians have died in the course of the 20-day confrontation, while 46 Israelis have been killed.
International leaders had hoped that a temporary truce on Saturday could be extended through Sunday. U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon “urges, in the strongest terms, both the Israelis and Palestinians to extend, for an additional 24 hours, the humanitarian cease-fire that was in effect and mostly observed until early this morning,” his spokesperson said.
Israel and Hamas have placed blame on the other for the end to the fragile peace that had allowed many Palestinians to search their bombed-out homes for belongings and loved ones. Some 150 bodies were found in the rubble during the window in fighting, although hundreds more could still be buried, according to Palestinian health officials.
"Following Hamas' incessant rocket fire throughout the humanitarian window, which was agreed upon for the welfare of the civilian population in Gaza, the (military) will now resume its aerial, naval and ground activity in the Gaza Strip," Israel announced, adding that it had repeatedly urged residents of the Palestinian enclave not to approach "combat zones."
A column of smoke rose into the air above Gaza City, and NBC News teams in the area reported hearing incoming artillery shells, fighter jets and air strikes immediately after the announcement at around 10 a.m. (3 a.m. ET).
Clashes soon erupted between Israeli troops and Gaza militants, according to The Associated Press. The Islamic Jihad group said one of its field commanders was killed by tank fire near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, the AP added.
Israel says it is trying to prevent civilian casualties by sending evacuation warnings to residents in targeted areas, and blames Hamas for so many civilians being killed in the bombings. Palestinians counter that there are no safe havens in the strip. On Thursday, a U.N.-run school housing evacuees was bombed, killing 15.
Gazan authorities blamed the Israeli forces for the incident. The Israeli military said its troops were fighting Hamas in the area and that it was investigating. Netanyahu said Sunday that Hamas was firing from the school, but UNRWA Spokesman Chris Gunness countered that the U.N. is a humanitarian organization that does not take sides in the conflict.
Israel launched the operation on July 8 to stop rocket fire from the militant-ruled enclave, and to destroy tunnels that Hamas could use to infiltrate the country and get needed supplies, according to Israeli officials.
— Ayman Mohyeldin reported from Gaza, Yael Factor from Tel Aviv and F. Brinley Bruton from London. Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published July 27 2014, 12:16 AM