Hostilities have resumed between Israel and Hamas militants after Israeli air strikes, responding to rockets fired by Hamas, pummelled Gaza City on Tuesday afternoon, ending the temporary cease-fire and threatening further ongoing negotiations between the two sides in Egypt.
On Tuesday morning, militants fired three rockets into the Israeli heartland, ordnance that, according to AP, landed in open fields near the city of Beersheba.
Ominously, hours before the strike on Israel, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum suggested a strike might be imminent, reportedly saying, "If Netanyahu doesn't understand... the language of politics in Cairo, we know how to make him understand."
Israeli spokesman Mark Regev responded by calling the attack on Beersheba a "grave and direct violation of the cease-fire".
The fresh violence follows a 24-hour extension of a cease-fire that had held for almost a week, with negotiators in Cairo aiming to thrash out a long-term deal to end a month of retaliations that have seen more than 2,000 Palestinians killed, including many civilians, as well as 67 Israelis.
The negotiations have reportedly stalled due to demands from Hamas to end the blockade of Gaza, as well as Israeli demands that the militant group should disarm.
An Egyptian plan, in which President Mahmoud Abbas would oversee the borders around Gaza, remains on the table, however the resumption of hostilities could have permanently derailed any immediate compromise.
— صايل (@Falastinian) August 19, 2014
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In an apparent attempt to pressure Hamas, Egypt said early Monday it would co-host an international fundraising conference for Gaza — but only if a deal is reached first.
That appears to play into the hands of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which is eager to regain control of Gaza.
Hamas finds itself pressured by both Egypt and the Palestinian Authority to accept a less than perfect deal with Israel, but needs to show the people of Gaza that the enormous sacrifices they endured in the fighting were not in vain.
There were few signs of any major breakthroughs.
A member of the Palestinian delegation said that Israel was offering to ease the Gaza blockade by opening border crossings to some goods and people, but was insisting that it retain the right to limit the imports of material like cement, and chemical and metal products, which Israel says can be used for weapons manufacturing.
Hamas fears the arrangement would allow Israel to retain the right to close the crossings whenever it wished and is pushing for more Palestinian input into such decisions.
The Palestinian official also told The Associated Press that Israel wants to put off for an unspecified date any discussion on the opening of a Gaza seaport and airport and the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
The Palestinians, however, say they will only agree to postpone discussing the seaport and airport for "a month after a cease-fire agreement, with other issues like .... the prisoners," the official said. He spoke condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss negotiations with journalists.
He also said that Israel agrees to extend the maritime territory in which Gaza fisherman can venture out from two to four kilometers (three to six miles) and eventually to 19 kilometers (12 miles) from the shore, but that it was standing firm against Hamas' demand for unsupervised exports from the strip.
The Gaza blockade, imposed after Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people, restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.
Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent arms smuggling, but critics say the measures have amounted to collective punishment.
Jamal Shobaky, the Palestinian ambassador in Cairo voiced disappointment with the Israeli stance, particularly on the question of the blockade. "What the Israelis have offered so far in the talks is not removing the blockade but rather easing it," he said.
The latest round of Gaza fighting was precipitated by massive Israeli arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank in the aftermath of the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June. Their deaths were followed by the slaying of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem in what was a likely revenge attack.