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Israel’s military has restarted fighting against Hamas in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said on Friday, ending a week-long truce that international mediators had hoped to extend to an eighth day.
“Hamas violated the operational pause, and in addition, fired toward Israeli territory,” the IDF said in a statement, following warning sirens near Gaza and the truce’s expiry on Friday. “The IDF has resumed combat against the Hamas terrorist organisation in the Gaza Strip.”
The resumption of hostilities shatters a fragile truce between the warring sides, which had allowed for the release of about 100 Israeli women and children held hostage by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups, in exchange for about 240 Palestinian women and children freed from Israeli jails.
The Israeli military said rockets had been fired into Israeli territory from Gaza on Friday morning, and that it was “currently striking Hamas terror targets” inside the strip. Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that “civilian houses” were struck by Israeli artillery, and Al Jazeera reported Israeli jets flying over Gaza.
The Gaza Hamas-run government media office said that civilian homes had been targeted in some 40 air raids across the densely populated strip. An eyewitness reported smoke rising over buildings in Rafah, southern Gaza.
Mediated by Qatar and Egypt and initially set for four days starting on November 24, the truce had been prolonged as Hamas offered to release more women and children in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons and humanitarians increased aid deliveries to the besieged Gaza strip.
But the pause in hostilities frayed following the killing of three Israelis at a bus stop in Jerusalem on Thursday in an attack claimed by Hamas. Hamas also appeared to have no more women and children hostages to return to Israel.
The militants are expected to want greater concessions for releasing the more than 140 men, including elderly, and Israeli soldiers that it still holds.
The fighting marks the end of a temporary respite for Gazan civilians, who had endured weeks of intense Israeli bombardment following Hamas’ attack on communities in southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking around 240 hostages back to Gaza. Palestinian officials say 14,800 people in Gaza had been killed in Israeli attacks, and the UN estimates that some 1.8mn people have fled their homes, creating a humanitarian crisis.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken said late on Thursday during a visit to Jerusalem that he had warned Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu “that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the south”.