Fighting broke out in the Gaza Strip again on Friday morning after a three-day truce expired, with Palestinian militants lobbing rockets into Israel and the Israeli military firing back with fresh air strikes.
The army spokesman’s office said in a statement that “terror sites” across Gaza had been targeted more than two hours after the resumption of Palestinian rocket fire.
Hamas disavowed responsibility for the renewed volleys of rockets, with smaller Palestinian factions claiming to have carried out the attacks.
At least two projectiles were intercepted by Israel’s antimissile system, with others falling in open areas in southern Israel. In Gaza City, the streets were empty by midmorning as most people stayed indoors, having hurried away from areas that were previously targeted. Israeli drones circled overhead.
Israel’s delegation also left Cairo, according to Israeli media reports. Indirect talks had been underway in the Egyptian capital both to extend the cease-fire and to lay groundwork for a longer-term accord. It was not clear whether the Israeli delegation intended to return to Cairo.
The lull, the longest since the start of the conflict on July 8, had been punctuated by bellicose rhetoric from Hamas, and by warnings from Israel that it would hit back hard if attacked.
“The renewed rocket attacks by terrorists at Israel are unacceptable, intolerable and shortsighted,” said army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner after Israel resumed its strikes. He blamed “Hamas’ bad decision to breach the cease-fire.”
Hamas and its allies have fired more than 3,300 rockets and missiles into Israel during the past month, and Israel responded by raking the seaside strip with air strikes and artillery fire aimed at destroying rocket launchers and infiltration tunnels.
Israel had said previously it would have no objection to continuing an unconditional cease-fire while indirect talks in the Egyptian capital continued. But Hamas said it would not go ahead with a ceasefire extension until it first achieved political concessions from Israel.
Among other demands, Hamas has called for the lifting of a blockade on the territory by Israel and Egypt. Palestinains said the tight restrictions on movement of goods and people are strangling Gaza economically; Israel says Hamas’ construction of an elaborate network of infiltration tunnels—and the buildup of a huge Hamas arsenal—show that freer movement of goods in and out of Gaza would be impractical.
However, some parties have called for international monitoring of entry and exit points into the coastal enclave.
Israel launched its aerial campaign against militants in Gaza after weeks of rocket fire and launched a ground incursion into the narrow coastal strip on July 17.
During four weeks of fighting, some 1,900 Palestinians were killed, the majority of them civilians, and 64 Israeli troops died. Israel unilaterally withdrew its ground forces just before the three-day truce took effect on Tuesday, but its troops remained deployed outside the border fence.