Israel resumes Gaza assault after rockets fired, heavy fighting reported

Israel resumed combat operations against Hamas in Gaza on Friday after accusing the Palestinian militant group of firing rockets at Israel and reneging on a deal to free all women held as hostages, violating their temporary truce agreement, Reuters reported.

The seven-day pause, which began on Nov. 24 and was extended twice, had allowed for the exchange of dozens of hostages held in Gaza for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and facilitated the entry of humanitarian aid into the shattered coastal strip.

In the hour before the truce was set to end at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT), Israel said it intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas or claim of responsibility for the launch.

“With the resumption of fighting we emphasise: The Israeli government is committed to achieving the goals of the war – to free our hostages, to eliminate Hamas, and to ensure that Gaza will never pose a threat to the residents of Israel,” the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Hamas was also defiant.

“What Israel did not achieve during the fifty days before the truce, it will not achieve by continuing its aggression after the truce,” Ezzat El Rashq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said on the group’s web site.

Palestinian media and Gaza’s interior ministry reported Israeli air and artillery strikes across the enclave after the truce expired, including in Rafah, near the border with Egypt.

In Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, a Reuters witness said he could hear heavy shelling and see smoke rising in the east of the town. People were fleeing the area to camps in the west of Khan Younis for cover, he added.

Al-Jazeera reported a number of people had been killed and injured by Israeli raids and shelling.

The Israel military confirmed its jets were striking Hamas targets in Gaza.

Images on social media showed large plumes of dark smoke rising over the densely built-up Jabalia camp in Gaza.

Israel has sworn to annihilate Hamas, which rules Gaza, in response to the Oct. 7 rampage by the militant group, when Israel says gunmen killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages.

Israel retaliated with intense bombardment and a ground invasion. Palestinian health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations say more than 15,000 Gazans have been confirmed killed.

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