- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 20, 2014

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinian militants launched dozens of rockets and Israel responded with airstrikes on Wednesday after Egyptian efforts to mediate a lasting truce in the monthlong Gaza war collapsed in a hail of fire a day earlier.

One of the Israeli airstrikes appeared to have targeted the home of Mohammed Deif, the Islamic militant group’s elusive military chief, who has escaped numerous Israeli assassination attempts in the past. It was not immediately clear whether he was there at the time of the attack.

The fighting resumed Tuesday when Gaza militants fired rockets at Israeli cities just hours before a temporary cease-fire was set to expire, prompting Israel to withdraw its delegation from Cairo and launch retaliatory airstrikes. Since then at least 16 Palestinians have been killed and 68 wounded, Gaza Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra said.


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The Israeli military said it carried out some 60 airstrikes on Gaza targets, and that Palestinians had fired at least 80 rockets at Israel since the temporary truce collapsed. About 2,000 reserve soldiers who had been sent home two weeks ago when fighting seemed to have simmered down were called up for duty again Wednesday, the military said.

The breakdown in talks and the resumption of violence marked a bitter ending to nearly a week of Egyptian-led diplomacy meant to end the war, which has reduced entire Gaza neighborhoods to rubble and claimed more than 2,000 lives, mainly Palestinians.

Israel’s military said it targeted two Palestinian militants after they fired rockets at Israel in the early afternoon. The Palestinian Red Crescent said they were killed.

Soon afterward a rocket fired from Gaza hit a house in southern Israel, causing damage to the home but no injuries.

The violence left the Egyptian mediation efforts in tatters and raised the likelihood of a new escalation. Palestinian negotiators said the talks were finished.

Three people — two women and a two-year-old girl — were killed in an airstrike on a house in Gaza City, al-Kidra said. In Cairo, Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas leader, said the dead included the wife and a child of Deif. There was no immediate confirmation from Hamas leaders in Gaza.

Israel has not formally commented on the strike but local media quoted an anonymous official as saying it was meant to hit Deif.

Yaakov Peri from the centrist Yesh Atid party, a former director of Israel’s internal security service, said he doesn’t have any details about Deif but that his house would have only been hit for a reason.

“If there was intelligence information that Mohammed Deif was not at home then the house would not have been blown up,” he told Army Radio.

“With the assumption that Israel was behind this, it shows its intelligence capabilities…and it is an important indication that no head of the Hamas military wing is immune to a targeted killing,” he said.

He said a security cabinet meeting would be held Wednesday afternoon to discuss developments.

Twenty-one people were wounded in a separate airstrike that hit a building that houses offices of Hamas‘ Al-Aqsa TV station, said al-Kidra, of the Hamas run Gaza Health Ministry.

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