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  • 15 July 2014, 12:47

Hamas Fighters Reject Gaza Ceasefire Plan

The armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas group has dismissed an Egyptian ceasefire plan backed by Israel's security cabinet.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said the proposal aimed at bringing to an end a week of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and rocket attacks on Israel had not been discussed with the group - and it threatened more violence.

It said: "No official or unofficial side has approached us about the ceasefire talked about in the media ... [but] if the contents of this proposal are true, it is a surrender and we reject it outright.

"Our battle with the enemy will intensify."

Shortly after the truce was scheduled to begin on Tuesday morning, Israeli police said a rocket hit the town of Ashdod, the first of at least 35 rockets to be fired into southern Israel by early afternoon.

An Israeli airstrike on an apartment building in northern Gaza was also reported.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahuwarned the military offensive in Gaza would be expanded if Hamas did not accept the deal.

"If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal and the rocket fire from Gaza does not cease - and that appears to be the case now - we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation to protect our people," he said.

"And for this we expect full support from the responsible members of the international community."

The plan has been welcomed by US President Barack Obama and the Arab League.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, also welcomed the Egyptian initiative and urged both sides to stop fighting.

The Hamas government which controls the West Bank is yet to issue a formal response to the ceasefire, but a senior official in the group, Sami Abu Zuhri, said it was "not acceptable".

Cairo said it was willing to host Israeli and Palestinian delegations for talks after the truce came into effect.

More than 180 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli airstrikesover the last seven days.

Israel says the bombings raids are designed to stop rocket fire from Gaza. No Israelis have died in the recent attacks, but four have been seriously wounded.

Human rights groups say more than 75% of the Palestinian dead have been non-combatants and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees says more than a quarter of them have been children.

The raids have prompted some 17,000 people to flee their homes, particularly in northern Gaza, with many taking refuge in UN schools.

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