A FRAGILE truce in Gaza for Eid has started to fall apart as Israel's prime minister said UN calls for a long-term ceasefire ignored his country's security needs.
Israeli forces said they were firing only when fired upon, while army engineers hunted infiltrator tunnels from the Gaza Strip's eastern frontier. They accused Palestinians of firing 17 rockets across the border, causing no casualties.
Palestinian officials said seven people, at least five of them minors, were killed in Israeli strikes early yesterday, bringing the Gaza death toll from the three-week-old conflict to 1,049, mostly civilians. Israel has lost 43 soldiers to Gaza fighting and another three civilians have been killed by Palestinian shelling.
A huge explosion in a public garden in northern Gaza later killed eight children and two adults, pushing the death toll higher.
Locals blamed the blast on an Israeli air strike but Israel denied responsibility, saying it was a misfire by a rocket launched by Hamas militants.
At roughly the same time, another blast shook the grounds of Gaza's main Shifa hospital, without causing any casualties. Israel, which has previously accused Hamas militants of hiding in the hospital, again blamed an errant missile.
Gaza's dominant Hamas Islamists had called for a pause to the hostilities ahead of yesterday's festival marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. But Israel resisted, having abandoned its own offer to extend a 12-hour truce from Saturday as Palestinian rockets kept flying.
Foreign pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has mounted, with US President Barack Obama and the United Nations Security Council urging an immediate ceasefire that would allow relief to reach Gaza's 1.8 million Palestinians, followed by negotiations on a more durable cessation of hostilities.
Speaking to UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon yesterday, Mr Netanyahu accused the Security Council of siding with Hamas.
The Israeli premier said: "The [UN] statement relates to the needs of a murderous terrorist group that attacks Israeli civilians, and has no answer for Israel's security needs - among them a demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip.
"Israel accepted three UN proposals for humanitarian truces and Hamas violated them all."
In New York, Mr Ban deplored what he described as a lack of resolve among all parties in the conflict.
He said: "It's a matter of their political will. They have to show their humanity as leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian. Why are these leaders making their people be killed by others? It's not responsible, [it's] morally wrong."
Israeli officials were more reticent about Sunday's phone conversation between Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu in which the American president appeared to link any Gaza demilitarisation to a peace accord with the Palestinians that is nowhere on the horizon.
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz declined to say if the Israeli Government might defy its US ally by refusing another formal truce on such terms.
The Israelis signalled preference for a mutual halt to fighting rather than an agreement that would preserve Hamas's arsenals and shore up its status by improving Gaza's crippled economy.