Israel, Hamas resume attacks after Gaza cease-fire expires

Militants in the Gaza Strip launched rockets shortly after the 3-day cease-fire ended. The Israelis answered with airstrikes.

Khalil Hamra/AP
Smoke rises over Gaza City after an Israeli strike, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, as Israel and Gaza militants resumed cross-border attacks after a three-day truce expired and Egyptian-brokered talks on a new border deal for blockaded Gaza hit a deadlock.

Gaza militants resumed rocket attacks on Israel on Friday, refusing to extend a three-day truce after Egyptian-brokered talks between Israel and Hamas on a new border deal for blockaded Gaza hit a deadlock.

Israel responded with a series of airstrikes, including one that killed a 10-year-old boy and wounded five children near a Gaza City mosque, Palestinian officials said. Two Israelis were wounded by rocket fire, police said.

The renewed violence threw the Cairo talks on a broader deal into doubt. Hamas officials said they are ready to continue talks, but Israel's government spokesman said Israel will not negotiate under fire.

Hamas wants Israel to open Gaza's borders, following a seven-year closure also enforced by Egypt, but Israel says it will only do so if the Islamic militants disarm or are prevented from re-arming. Hamas has insisted it will never give up its arms.

The wide gaps became clear at an all-night meeting between Egyptian and Palestinian negotiators that preceded the renewed fire. Hamas negotiators told The Associated Press that Israel rejected all of their demands.

Hamas had entered the Cairo talks from a position of military weakness, following a month of fighting in which Israel pounded Gaza with close to 5,000 strikes. Israel has said Hamas lost hundreds of fighters, two-thirds of its rocket arsenal and all of its military attack tunnels under the border with Israel.

The heavy toll of the war appears to have made Hamas even more resistant to returning to the status quo. The group is unlikely to accept a cease-fire without assurances that Gaza's borders will be opened — particularly after the fighting left close to 1,900 Gaza residents dead, more than 9,000 wounded and tens of thousands displaced, with entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.

With nothing to show for in the negotiations, Gaza militants began firing rockets at Israel within minutes after the temporary truce expired at 8:00 a.m. (0500 GMT) Friday.

By midday, 33 rockets had been fired. Twenty-six landed in Israel, three were intercepted and four fell short in Gaza, the army said.

The rockets appeared to have been an attempt by Hamas to exert pressure on Israel without triggering a major escalation. Smaller Gaza groups claimed responsibility, while there was no word from Hamas rocket squads.

However, Israel said it will not negotiate under such terms.

"When Hamas broke the cease-fire, when Hamas launched rockets and mortar shells at Israel, they broke the premise of the talks," said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev, adding that "there will not be negotiations under fire."

The Israeli delegation to the Cairo talks left Egypt on Friday morning, and it was not clear if it would return.

Israel eventually responded to the rockets with what the military said were strikes "across Gaza," without elaborating.

Police in Gaza said most of the strikes hit empty fields, but that one struck the backyard of the Nour al-Mohammadi Mosque in the Gaza City neighborhood of Sheik Radwan.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said a 10-year-old boy was killed and five boys were wounded, one of them critically.

Later Friday, rescue services and police said an Israeli airstrike hit a house belonging to members of the Zahar clan, one of the largest in Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood. Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar also belongs to the clan, but the degree of relation to those in the house was not known. Police said the house was struck without warning and that 20 people were inside at the time.

Rescue teams were en route to the house, but there was no immediate report on casualties.

Police also reported fire from Israeli tanks on northern Gaza and from Israeli gunboats at the central area of the strip.

Two Israelis were wounded by rocket and mortar fire, police said.

The military announced that authorities are prohibiting gatherings of more than 1,000 people in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other areas within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of the Gaza border because of the rocket fire.

The current round of fighting is the third in just over five years.

Israel launched an air campaign on the coastal territory on July 8 and sent in ground troops nine days later to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.

On the Israeli side, 67 people — including three civilians — were killed in the past month. Much of the country was exposed to fire, with Gaza militants firing thousands of rockets and mortar shells.

Israel said it was going after Hamas targets, including rocket launching sites, and estimated at least 40 percent of the dead were militants.

The UN said most of those killed in Gaza were civilians and that in dozens of cases, strikes hit family homes, killing multiple members of the same family at once.

Previous rounds of Israel-Hamas fighting ended inconclusively, setting the stage for the next confrontation because underlying problems were not resolved, particularly the stifling border closure of Gaza.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, and have since enforced it to varying degrees.

The closure led to widespread hardship in the Mediterranean seaside territory, home to 1.8 million people. Movement in and out of Gaza is limited, the economy has ground to a standstill and unemployment is over 50 percent.

Israel argues that it needs to keep Gaza's borders under a blockade as long as Hamas tries to smuggle weapons into Gaza or manufactures them there.

The militant group has said it is willing to hand over some power in Gaza to enable its long-time rival, Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to lead reconstruction efforts, but that it would not give up its arsenal and control over thousands of armed men.

The Gaza war grew out of the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of the group's members in the West Bank, as Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.

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