Leon Watson — Daily Mail July 15, 2015
Tony Blair’s involvement in the Middle East peace process came under scrutiny today as a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza collapsed, while the first Israeli death in a week of fighting has been confirmed.
A civilian in his 30s was killed today when he was struck by a mortar from the Gaza Strip while delivering food to soliders at the Erez Crossing.
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 but mostly thanks to its “Iron Dome” defense system, no Israelis were killed until today.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said at least 15 Israelis, including several children, have been injured by the Palestinian rocket fire since the fighting began.
The speedy resumption of violence, less than a day after Egypt presented its ceasefire plan, illustrated that it will be harder this time than in the past to negotiate an end to Israel-Hamas fighting.
A key difference to a previous truce in 2012 is that Hamas does not trust the current rulers of Egypt who deposed a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo a year ago.
Israel had agreed to the Egyptian plan, proposed late Monday. Under it, a 12-hour period of de-escalation was to begin at mid-morning Tuesday. Once both sides agree to halt hostilities, they would negotiate the terms of a longer-term truce.
Gaza militants responded by firing dozens of rockets after the proposed start of the de-escalation, some of them reaching deep into Israel, though not causing injuries.
Israel, which had warned it would strike Gaza harder than before if Hamas did not halt hostilities, held its fire for several hours, but resumed air strikes by mid-afternoon Tuesday.
After the renewed rocket fire from Gaza on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon ‘directed the military to act with intensity against terror targets in Gaza,’ said an Israeli official.
Mr Blair’s apparent involvement as Middle East Envoy apparently exacerbated the situation.
Diplomatic sources told the Guardian that Mr Blair has been a key voice in the past week, but Palestinians do not trust him as he is perceived as pro-Israel, while he also backed the current Cairo regime that overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood a year ago.
Earlier My Blair had praised the ‘leadership of Egypt’ in calling for a ceasefire.
He said: ‘Such a ceasefire can halt the tragic loss of life, stop the rockets on Israel – and open up the possibility of a genuine change in Gaza.’
The renewed rocket attacks on Israel came after the Palestinian militant group swiftly rejected a proposals for a truce agreed by Egypt and Israel and warned its attacks will ‘increase in ferocity and intensity’.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior official with the Palestinian militant group, spoke moments after Israel accepted the offer.
He said: ‘This proposal is not acceptable.’
The al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, added that it had not officially received the text of the agreement but said excerpts the group had seen showed it was ‘an initiative of kneeling and submission’.
‘Our battle with the enemy continues and will increase in ferocity and intensity,’ it said.
The Egyptian plan had called for hostilities to end this morning, followed by negotiations on easing the border blockade of Gaza.