Gaza Strip: 12 Palestinians die as no progress reported in calm talks
At least 12 Palestinians were killed Thursday in the Gaza Strip. In the biggest incident, a blast destroyed a Hamas bomb-maker's house in the Gaza Strip, killing at least seven Palestinians, including a baby, in what Hamas called an Israeli air strike and Israel said was an internal blast.
In a separate incident, a missile fired from an Israeli aircraft killed three Hamas fighters who were trying to launch rockets into Israel from a cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip, Hamas and the Israeli army said, according to Reuters. In the morning, Israeli troops shot dead two gunmen near a Gaza Strip border crossing, medical workers said. Another Israeli air strike wounded two Hamas gunmen, the group said. An Israeli spokeswoman confirmed the strike.
The explosion in the house of Ahmed Hamouda wounded 25 people. Hamas described him as one of its senior bomb-makers, and said it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike. Israel described it as an internal blast.
The explosion destroyed the two-storey dwelling and damaged several other homes in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. "The Beit Lahiya massacre was caused by an Israeli strike that targeted a Qassam leader," Hamas said in a statement. An Israeli military spokeswoman denied any Israeli involvement in the Beit Lahiya explosion and government spokesman Mark Regev said Hamas showed through its response that it was "committed to violence, terror and murder".
After the house was destroyed, gunners fired more than 20 rockets and mortar bombs into southern Israel, injuring one woman, the Israeli army said. Over 40 missiles landed in Israeli territory during the day, it said. Medics said at least four Palestinians -- including an infant whose body was held up to television cameras in a hospital -- died in the explosion in Beit Lahiya. Hamas said Hamouda survived but may have been wounded in the blast and the bodies of three Hamas activists were found later in the rubble.
Meanwhile, Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Thursday it would accept a specified timeline for opening Gaza Strip's border crossings after a with Israel comes into effect. Haniyeh said Hamas would need to know "certain dates for the reopening of the crossings".
An Israeli envoy returned from calm talks in Egypt on Thursday evening and reported that there had been no progress on the issues, Israel Radio said. The talks are set to continue.
(Additional reporting by Adam Entous and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; writing by Jeffrey Heller; editing by Mariam Karouny)
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