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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 towards 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 office of Israel’s prime minister accused Hamas of failing to meet its commitment to releasing “all the kidnapped women” on Friday and of firing rockets at Israel. The Israeli military said it was “currently striking Hamas terror targets” inside the strip.
Air raids and artillery strikes were immediately reported in Gaza after the truce broke on Friday. The Hamas-run Gaza government media office said civilian homes had been targeted in multiple air raids across the densely populated strip. A witness reported smoke rising over buildings in Rafah, southern Gaza. Al Jazeera reported that ambulances were transporting casualties to various hospitals.
The truce, which was mediated by Qatar, the US and Egypt and was initially set for four days starting on November 24, had been extended twice as Hamas offered to release more hostages in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons and increased deliveries of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
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.
The Palestinian militant group also appeared to have run short of women and children hostages to return to Israel.
Hamas is expected to ask for greater concessions in exchange for releasing the 140 remaining hostages, which includes Israeli soldiers and reservists.
The Israeli prime minister’s office said it was resuming fighting in order to release hostages, “eliminate” Hamas and ensure “that Gaza will never again pose a threat to the people of Israel”.
The fighting marks the end of a temporary respite for Gazan civilians, who had endured weeks of intense Israeli bombardment and a ground invasion triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attack on communities in southern Israel, in which the militants killed 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages back to Gaza.
Palestinian officials said 14,800 people in Gaza had been killed in Israeli’s assault, and the UN estimates that 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”.
Additional reporting by Neri Zilber in Tel Aviv
Source: Financial Times