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Air strikes, rocket fire resume as Gaza ceasefire ends

AFP - Roberto Schmidt

The Israeli military said Friday it had resumed strikes on targets “across Gaza” in response to Hamas rocket fire from the enclave soon after a three-day truce came to an end at 5am (GMT).


Gaza police said that Israel resumed tank fire on northern Gaza and launched air strikes after Gaza militants fired rockets at Israel.

Hamas launched 21 rockets at Israel following the end of the truce, AP reported, with most landing in open fields. Two others were intercepted over the coastal city of Ashkelon.

Israeli warplanes struck Jabaliya in northern Gaza as well as Gaza City on Friday, the Palestinian interior ministry and witnesses said.

Medical sources said one Palestinian child was reported killed in the renewed fighting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israeli military to retaliate soon after the rockets were fired by Hamas, an official said.

"The Israeli prime minister and defence minister have ordered the IDF (Israel defense forces) to retaliate forcefully to the Hamas breach of the ceasefire," an official said in a statement.

Israel said Wednesday that it was ready to extend the 72-hour ceasefire "indefinitely" but a Hamas spokesman said there had been no agreement on an extension.

Two senior Hamas officials said earlier that the Palestinian Islamist movement would not extend the ceasefire, accusing Israel of rejecting their demands for a truce.

A leader from the Islamic Jihad, which is also represented at the Cairo talks, confirmed that Palestinian factions had decided not to extend the ceasefire.

The Israeli army said Hamas fired two rockets into Israel in the hours leading up to the end of the truce, an accusation Hamas denied.

"Just now, two rockets fired from Gaza hit southern Israel. No injuries reported,” the army said in a text message to journalists ahead of the 5am (GMT) deadline for the truce to be renewed or collapse.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, however, said that "the Israeli claim of firing two rockets from Gaza is only an accusation to confuse the issues".

There had been no agreement on a possible extension from Hamas, whose representatives and those of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) are meeting with Israeli envoys in Cairo for talks with Egyptian mediators.

A senior Palestinian official said Thursday there could be no deal without an agreement on certain key criteria.

“The Israeli delegation is proposing extending the ceasefire while refusing a number of the Palestinian demands,” he said, without elaborating.

“If Israel continues its procrastination, we will not extend the ceasefire.”

A spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, warned just hours before the truce expired that fighting would resume if their demands were not met, first and foremost to open a sea port to the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

“If there is an agreement, it will be possible to extend the truce, but if there is not, we will ask the delegation to withdraw from the talks,” a spokesman using the nom de guerre of Abu Obeida said in a televised address.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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