Gaza explosion as Israel resumes strikes
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israeli military to retaliate after rocket attacks by Gaza Palestinian militants followed the end of a three-day truce on Friday, an official said.
“The Israeli prime minister and defense minister have ordered the IDF (Israel defense forces) to retaliate forcefully to the Hamas breach of the ceasefire,” an official said in a statement.
The army confirmed it had “targeted terror sites across the Gaza Strip,” with a spokeswoman telling Agence France-Presse that no Israeli soldiers had entered the Palestinian territory.
A huge explosion and a plume of smoke were seen in Gaza City on Friday, apparently from an Israeli air strike, a Reuters witness said.
Hamas won’t extend truce
Earlier, two senior Hamas officials told AFP that the Palestinian movement will not extend the ceasefire which expired at 0500 GMT Friday, accusing Israel of rejecting their demands for a truce.
A leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller faction in Gaza that was also present in Cairo-mediated truce talks, confirmed the factions had decided not to extend the ceasefire.
Another senior Hamas official told The Associated Press that the group decided not to extend the ceasefire.
Meanwhile, Hamas also denied that it launched rockets on southern Israel amid Israeli military accusations that the Palestinian group has fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip on Friday hours before a 72-hour ceasefire was due to expire.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the projectiles landed in open areas close to the Gaza border.
No one claimed responsibility for the fire from Gaza. There are a number of militant groups in the crowded territory that operate outside the control of Hamas with rockets of their own.
Indirect talks in Cairo
Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect talks in Cairo on new, border arrangements for the blockaded coastal territory. Israel has said it is willing to consider easing border restrictions, but demands that Hamas disarm. The talks began during a three-day truce that is to end at 0800 (0500 GMT) Friday.
The Hamas senior official told The Associated Press that the group’s representatives were told by Egyptian mediators that Israel had rejected Hamas’ conditions for an extension – an agreement in principle to open Gaza’s borders and allow for a rebuilding of the strip. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was en route to informing Egyptian officials of the decision.
A collapse of the truce could unleash a new round of violence after a month of fighting that has claimed nearly 1,900 Palestinian lives, with 67 deaths on the Israeli side.
Hamas former official killed
On Thursday, a former spokesman for Hamas was found dead Thursday in a neighborhood of the city that was heavily bombed by Israel, the movement said.
Ayman Taha was killed when Israeli forces “targeted him in the apartment where he was with several others in Gaza City” in the Shejaiya neighborhood, the group said in a statement.
Their area was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting and bombardment during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
He was severely wounded and died later, the statement said.
In a related story, Hamas said on Thursday it had executed several Palestinians on suspicion of helping Israeli forces during the month-long Gaza war.
“The spies were executed after they were caught red-handedly informing on the whereabouts of the resistance (or) disrupting the work of resistance men and defusing ambushes prepared against the enemy,” al-Majd, a pro-Hamas website, quoted an unnamed member of the Islamist group’s security services as saying.
It did not elaborate on the number of people executed.