Violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip continued to escalate Wednesday, a day after a cease-fire attempt failed. Washington bureau reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report for NY1.
Thousands of Palestinians fled their homes in Gaza Wednesday, heeding the warnings of Israeli defense forces of major attacks to come.
The death toll continues to rise in the Middle East, a day after an Egypt-backed cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas fell apart. Rocket attacks from Gaza were again met with air strikes from Israel.
A leading member of Hamas said he welcomes a peace agreement, so long as it’s credible.
"We hope we can achieve a cease-fire, but a cease-fire which can protect the Palestinians and guarantee that there will no violations," said Osama Hamadan, a Hamas spokesperson.
The Israelis, who accepted the cease-fire proposal, defended their decision to continue their air strikes.
"Instead of having this door open to a diplomatic solution, they closed the door," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "So we now have to unfortunately protect our people through military means."
In Washington, pro-Israel lawmakers and officials insisted that Hamas is responsible for the latest crisis.
"They're putting their own people at risk by continuing to escalate the situation on the ground," said Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry is offering to travel to the region to try to help negotiate another cease-fire deal as the violence in the region wages on.
Late Wednesday, Israel agreed to stop its attack on Hamas targets in Gaza for six hours on Thursday to allow residents of Gaza to get food and humanitarian aid.