Militants Fire Rockets as Cease-Fire Ends, Israel Responds With Airstrikes
A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is over after peace talks reached a deadlock in Cairo. Rockets were fired across the border by militants just as the cease-fire expired, followed by several Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.
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Israel resumed strikes on targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire from the area shortly after the expiration of a cease-fire between Israel and the terror group Hamas, Israeli military officials said Friday.
The move came after military officials said Gaza militants had fired a barrage of at least five rockets at southern Israel shortly after the three-day truce between Israel and Hamas expired. The Israeli military said it responded with strikes "across Gaza."
At least one of the rockets fired from Gaza was successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome system over the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon while two rockets fell in open areas without causing casualties or damage, Haaretz reported.
Israel and Hamas had been holding indirect talks in Cairo on new border arrangements for the blockaded coastal territory. Israel said it was willing to consider easing border restrictions, but demanded that Hamas disarmed. The talks began during the three-day truce that ended at 8 a.m. local time on Friday.
A Hamas official had told The Associated Press before it ended that the group had decided not to extend the cease-fire.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev would not say whether Israel is interested in extending the cease-fire or if it will respond to the rockets.
Regev blamed Gaza militants for breaking the cease-fire. "The cease-fire is over," Regev said. "They did that."
Prior to the end of the cease-fire, the Israeli military said that the militants had fired two rockets at Israel. However, although the firing of the rockets violated the cease-fire, the Israel Defense Forces did not respond, The Jerusalem Post reported.
No one immediately 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.
In Cairo, the gaps between Israel and Hamas were wide, and it was likely from the start that an extension of the truce would be needed. Hamas has said it will not even contemplate Israel's demand that it disarm. Israel has said it will not lift the blockade of Gaza without a demilitarization of Gaza.
The blockade has been enforced by Israel and Egypt to varying degrees since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007.
The 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.
On July 8, Israel launched an air campaign on the coastal territory, and nine days later, sent in ground troops to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.