Netanyahu: Hamas "will pay" for nixing truce; 1st Israeli killed by Gaza fire

JERUSALEM -- Israel's leader says the country will exert "great force" against Gaza's Hamas rulers after the Islamic militants rejected a truce agreement.

Israel halted its fire for six hours Tuesday after accepting an Egyptian truce proposal. But with Hamas continuing to launch rockets into Israel, it resumed strikes in the afternoon.

Benjamin Netanyahu said in an evening address aired live on television that Israel has "no choice" but to respond more forcefully.

Netanyahu said "Hamas chose to continue fighting and will pay the price for that decision."

The Israeli military says Gaza militants fired close to 125 rockets since the truce was to have begun. CBS News' Michal Ben-Gal reported there was a heavy barrage of rockets towards Tel-Aviv and central Israel on Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, Israeli police said a man in his 30s was killed by fire from the Gaza Strip, the first Israeli death in more than a week of fighting.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that Israeli man was delivering food to soldiers Tuesday at the Erez Crossing with Gaza when he was struck by a mortar.

Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed in strikes in Gaza since Israel launched the campaign over a week ago to stop rocket fire at its citizens.

Gaza militants have fired more than 1,100 rockets toward Israel in the fighting. Mostly thanks to its "Iron Dome" defense system, no Israelis were killed till Tuesday.

Rosenfeld said at least 15 Israelis, including several children, have been injured by the Palestinian rocket fire since the fighting began.

The current round of violence was the third in just over five years. The previous one, in 2012, eventually ended with the help of Egypt, at the time seen as a trusted broker by Hamas.

But Hamas distrusts Egypt's current rulers, who have tightened the border blockade on Gaza, including curtailing travel in and out of the territory. An easing of the blockade of the coastal strip is key to the survival of Hamas.

Hamas officials on Tuesday rejected the Egyptian plan as is, noting they weren't consulted by Cairo. Some portrayed the truce offer as an ultimatum presented to Hamas by Israel and Egypt.

The officials, including Osama Hamdan, a senior aide to top Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, said the Egyptian plan offered no tangible achievements, particularly on easing a border blockade of the coastal strip, which has been enforced by Israel and Egypt for the past seven years.

Hamdan said the movement needs detailed assurances that Gaza's borders will be opened, particularly the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the territory's main gate to the world.

Hamas also wants to be recognized by Egypt as a partner in any truce efforts. "We did not receive any official draft of this Egyptian proposal," said Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official in Gaza. He said the Egyptian plan, as is, is "not acceptable."

Hamas officials are weary of promises by Egypt and Israel to ease the border blockade. Such promises were also part of a truce in 2012, but were not fully implemented as the strip remained under blockade.

Before the outbreak of the latest round of fighting, the militant group found itself in a serious financial crisis because the Egyptian closure had prevented cash and goods from coming into the strip through hundreds of smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.

In response to the Egyptian truce plan, Gaza militants fired some 50 rockets at Israel on Tuesday,

The Israeli military said several rockets reached deep into Israel, including near the northern port city of Haifa. Sirens also went off in the towns of Hadera and Zichron Yaakov, more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Gaza.

The military wing of Hamas, which has been responsible for most of the hundreds of rockets launched at Israel in the past week, said the Egyptian plan "wasn't worth the ink it was written with."

As fighting resumed, the Israeli military faced difficult choices. It has warned in the past that it might launch a ground of offensive in Gaza and has amassed thousands of troops on Gaza's border.

However, entering Gaza would likely drive up casualties on both sides. In the past, Israel has shied away from ground operations for fear of getting entangled in the densely populated territory of 1.7 million.

In Vienna, Secretary of State John Kerry blasted Hamas for firing rockets after the proposed cease-fire was to have taken effect.

"I cannot condemn strongly enough the actions of Hamas," Kerry told reporters. In contrast, he praised Egypt's intervention and Israel's acceptance of the deal.

Kerry said the U.S. would continue pushing for a cease-fire is because of the potential for the violence escalating even further.

Comments