A three-day truce in Gaza between Palestinian militants and Israel ended Friday with no progress in negotiations brokered by Egypt to even temporarily extend the lull, and the antagonists resumed fighting.
As the 72-hour cease-fire ended at 8 a.m., the longest pause in the month-old war, militants in Gaza fired barrages of rockets into Israel and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes, killing five people including a 10-year-old boy, according to relatives and Gaza health officials. The Israeli military said at least 45 rockets were fired into Israel over the day but caused no deaths.
It was not immediately clear how the renewed hostilities would affect the indirect negotiations in Cairo between Israel and Hamas, the dominant militant group in Gaza, for a more durable cease-fire agreement. But it was clear that the negotiations, backed by the United States and the United Nations, had not yet satisfied Hamas, which refused to extend the temporary lull. The Israeli government said in a statement that it would “not hold negotiations under fire.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations, expressing “deep disappointment” over the resumed fighting, exhorted both sides to keep negotiating.
“The extension of the cease-fire is absolutely essential for talks to progress and to address the underlying issues of the crisis as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.
Since the fighting began on July 8, more than 1,880 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, many of them civilians, and 67 have been killed on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers. Israeli ground forces withdrew from Gaza as the 72-hour truce took effect on Tuesday, but Israel had said its aerial forces would respond to attacks.
A senior Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate diplomacy, said the Cairo talks “were based on a premise of no violence. We only went to Cairo based on an unconditional cease-fire, and then to talk about the broader issues. They have taken away the premise,” he said of Hamas.
The Israeli delegation to the Cairo talks, which has been traveling back and forth from Egypt, returned to Israel at 7 a.m. Friday. The Palestinian delegation remained in Cairo and held talks with the Egyptians.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the negotiations so far had yielded agreement on “the great majority of topics of interest to the Palestinians” and said that differences remained only around a “few, limited points.”
The statement called for the parties to “immediately return to the cease-fire commitment and to use the current opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited points still pending in the fastest possible time.”
But the optimistic picture portrayed by the ministry was undercut by the resumption of hostilities and the frustration of Palestinian negotiators, who accused Israel of having wasted time during the three-day lull. The Palestinian side complained that its underlying grievance - the blockade imposed on Gaza by both Israel and Egypt - had been basically ignored.
Azzam al-Ahmad, one of the Palestinian negotiators, told reporters in Cairo that his side was ready to continue negotiating. But he also said: “We won’t stay here indefinitely.”
Israeli analysts said that Egypt was exerting pressure on Hamas and putting it in a difficult position by not addressing many of its demands.
“Hamas does not have much to lose,” said Kobi Michael, a former head of the Palestinian desk and former deputy director general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and now a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “It needs to salvage some kind of achievement or it will be seen as out of credit.”
After three days of quiet, Hamas was the first to fire, lobbing rockets and mortar rounds into southern Israel. Some were intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system, while others fell in open ground and a few landed short in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli civilian and a soldier were injured in one of the attacks, according to the military, and a home was damaged in Sderot, the Israeli town near the Gaza border that has often been targeted by Gaza rockets. The Israeli military also reported two launchings of rockets or mortar shells from Gaza before dawn.
In Gaza, Ibrahim Dawawsa, 10, was killed in a strike from an Israeli drone as he played in the yard of a mosque in the Sheik Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City, according to his brother, Zuheir, 19.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, wrote in an Internet posting Friday that it did not accept an extension of the lull, adding, “We will continue negotiations.”
Islamic Jihad, a militant Palestinian faction that has taken part in the fighting alongside Hamas and is represented at the talks in Cairo, took responsibility for firing rockets.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said in a statement: “The renewed rocket attacks by terrorists at Israel are unacceptable, intolerable and shortsighted. Hamas’ bad decision to breach the cease-fire will be pursued by the IDF. We will continue to strike Hamas, its infrastructure, its operatives and restore security for the State of Israel.”
The Israeli government statement said that Israel had informed the Egyptians that it was ready to extend the cease-fire by another 72 hours before the rocket fire resumed.
“Israel will continue to act by all means to defend its citizens, while making an effort not to harm civilians in Gaza,” it said. “Hamas, which violated the cease-fire, is responsible for the harm to Gaza’s citizens.”
Just at 8 a.m., as television correspondents stood on the beachside road in Gaza City to do their live reports, the first rocket was fired. The signature white plume of the Israeli interception was visible in the air for miles. A few more booms were heard in the next 15 minutes, but they hardly disrupted the trickle of donkey carts on the street.
People were out in the streets of Gaza City, and some stores were open, much as during the previous three days of cease-fire. Children roamed outside, men sat on sidewalks, and a line of a few dozen waited to buy bread at the Khouli bakery.
Farther north, in Jabaliya, where thousands of people have been sheltering in U.N. schools, the streets were teeming with people. An elderly man was walking with seven camels. Children balanced cartons of supplies on their heads, taking them from the market to the shelters.
In areas closer to the border with Israel, like Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun, the streets were almost deserted. In Beit Lahiya, half of the two dozen tall apartment buildings of the Al Nada complex had been destroyed by nearly a month of Israeli airstrikes, artillery and tank fire.
In Beit Hanoun, now a ghost town of toppled homes and rubble-strewn streets, Anas Kaferna, 25, and his brother and sister were tying mattresses to the top of a silver sedan and heading south.
“I don’t want to be the last one in town,” Kaferna said.
Since their home was destroyed at the start of the ground invasion, the siblings had been sleeping at a maternity hospital where Kaferna worked as a security guard. But with the news that the cease-fire was over, they headed to Gaza City, although they did not know where.
“Now it seems the situation will get harder,” he said. “Maybe yes and maybe no. I don’t understand politics.”
Hamas radio reported an Israeli airstrike in agricultural land north of Gaza City, which caused no injuries, as well as an airstrike in Jabaliya. It said artillery shells had hit the Nada complex in Beit Hanoun, as well as the cities of Rafah and Khan Younis.
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