Middle East

Gaza conflict: Hamas vows no Israel ceasefire

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Media captionIsrael's bombardment of Gaza has seen entire areas of Gaza destroyed, as Ian Pannell reports

A reclusive Hamas commander has rejected suggestions the Palestinian militants are ready for a ceasefire with Israel to end violence in Gaza.

In an audio recording, Mohammad Deif, commander of Hamas' military wing, said his soldiers were "eager for death".

Fighting continued into the early hours of Wednesday, with at least 32 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire overnight, Gaza health officials said.

At least 1,200 Palestinians and 55 Israelis have been killed since 8 July.

Early on Wednesday, shelling on a UN school in Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp killed at least 15, medical sources said.

A UN official confirmed the shelling but gave a lower initial toll of 16 dead, AFP news agency reported.

Most of Palestinian deaths have been civilians, and 6,700 have been injured, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Israel has seen 53 of its soldiers die in the conflict with militant group Hamas. Two civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also died.

'End the siege'

Palestinian factions are expected to meet in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss a possible humanitarian ceasefire. Egyptian mediators are reportedly revising an earlier truce proposal that was accepted by Israel but not Hamas.

As international pressure for a ceasefire grows, Israel and Hamas have each reiterated their positions and aims.

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Media captionIsrael has mourned the deaths of five soldiers killed by Hamas militants that emerged from an underground tunnel, as Orla Guerin reports

"We don't accept any condition of ceasefire," the Associated Press quoted Hamas commander Mohammad Deif as saying. "There is no ceasefire without the stop of the aggression and the end of the siege."

Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza and restricted the entry of goods since 2007.

The recording of Mohammad Deif's statement emerged at the same time as a Hamas video of militants using a tunnel to attack an Israeli soldier.

Israel insists the existence of such tunnels, dug by militants to infiltrate Israel, are the key reason for pressing ahead with Operation Protective Edge.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) want to continue operations to destroy the tunnels once any ceasefire is agreed.

Earlier on Tuesday a senior figure in the West Bank, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said a ceasefire was imminent and claimed to speak for Hamas.

But a spokesman for the group quickly denied that.

Infrastructure hit

On Tuesday, more than 100 Palestinians were killed by Israeli air strikes, Gaza officials said,

A huge plume of smoke rose over the Gaza Strip's only power plant after one of its fuel tanks was reportedly set alight by Israeli tank shells, and the facility was forced to shut down.

The main power station could be out of action for up to a year, the facility's manager told the BBC, after it burst into flames.

Hamas-run TV and radio stations, three mosques, four factories and government buildings were also hit, according to reports.

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Media captionThe BBC's Chris Morris reports from the ruins of a Gaza mosque, where he says the mood is one of "defiance"

Palestinian security sources told the BBC that Gaza's port had been destroyed, with two schools and a kindergarten also hit.

Some 110 targets were hit on Tuesday, Israel said. Palestinians said seven families were among the more than 100 killed.

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said it was now caring for more than 200,000 people in shelters, and revealed that a number of its staff had been reported killed.

Targeting tunnels

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rockets have continued to target Israeli towns and cities from within Gaza
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption An Israeli soldier prays on top of a tank near the Gaza border

Rockets fired from Gaza continued to hit Israel on Tuesday.

The Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted four over the southern city of Beersheva, Israeli media reported. Sirens sounded in Tel Aviv and several other towns.

Lt-Col Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, told AP pressure was being increased on Hamas.

"Israel is determined to strike this organisation and relieve us of this threat," he said.

Israel's Operation Protective Edge began on 8 July after a surge in militant rocket attacks.

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