- The latest developments:
- Israeli planes bomb Hamas targets in Gaza – the Israeli army
- Pictures circulated on social media show columns of smoke rising above the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza
GAZA/TEL AVIV (Reuters) – There were reports of intense fighting in the Gaza Strip on Friday, while the Israeli army said it had resumed combat operations against the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) after it accused the armed Palestinian movement of violating a temporary truce by firing towards Israeli territory.
The seven-day truce, which began on November 24 and has been extended twice, allowed the exchange of dozens of hostages held in Gaza for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and facilitated the entry of humanitarian aid into the torn coastal enclave.
In the hour before the truce expired at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT), Israel said it intercepted a missile fired from Gaza.
The army said more sirens sounded again in Israeli areas near Gaza just minutes before the deadline.
There was no immediate comment from Hamas or claim of responsibility for the rocket launch.
Palestinian media reported that Israel launched air and artillery strikes across the Strip after the end of the truce, including in Rafah near the border with Egypt.
The Israeli army confirmed that its planes bombed Hamas targets in Gaza.
Pictures posted on social media showed large plumes of black smoke rising above the crowded Jabalia camp in Gaza.
Israel has vowed to annihilate Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, in response to the group’s attack on October 7, when Israel says militants killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostage.
Israel responded with massive bombardment and a ground invasion. The Palestinian health authorities, which the United Nations considers reliable, say that more than 15,000 Gazans have been confirmed dead.
The hostages head home
Qatar and Egypt are making intense efforts to extend the truce after exchanging the last batch of eight hostages and 30 Palestinian prisoners on Thursday.
Israel had previously set the release of 10 hostages per day as the minimum it could accept to stop its ground attack and bombing.
Their release on Thursday brings the total number of hostages released during the truce to 105 hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners.
Among those released were six women between the ages of 21 and 40, including a Mexican-Israeli woman with dual citizenship and 21-year-old Mia Shem, who holds dual French and Israeli citizenship.
Photos released by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office showed Shim, who was kidnapped by Hamas along with others at an open-air music festival in southern Israel on October 7, embracing her mother and brother after reuniting at the Hatzerim military base in Israel.
The other two hostages who were recently released are Brother Bilal and Aisha Al-Ziyadah, who are 18 and 17 years old, respectively, according to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. They are Bedouin Arab citizens of Israel and are among four members of their family who were taken hostage while milking cows on the farm.
One of Qatar’s senior negotiators, career diplomat Abdullah Al-Sulaiti, who helped broker the truce through marathon shuttle negotiations, acknowledged in a recent Reuters interview the uncertain prospects of keeping the weapons silent.
“At first I thought reaching an agreement would be the most difficult step,” he said in an article detailing behind-the-scenes efforts for the first time. “I have found that maintaining the agreement itself is equally challenging.”
Blinken says Israel agrees to protect civilians
The truce allowed some humanitarian aid to enter Gaza after a large part of the coastal enclave, inhabited by 2.3 million people, was turned into barren lands in the Israeli attack.
The Israeli Defense Ministry and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said more fuel and 56 trucks loaded with humanitarian supplies entered Gaza on Thursday.
But aid workers say supplies of food, water, medical supplies and fuel remain far short of what is needed.
In an emergency meeting in Amman, Jordanian King Abdullah on Thursday urged UN officials and international groups to pressure Israel to allow more aid into the besieged Strip, according to delegates.
When the ceasefire first went into effect a week ago, Israel was preparing to shift the focus of its operations to southern Gaza after its seven-week offensive in the north.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who is in Israel during his third visit to the Middle East since the start of the war, said that he informed Netanyahu that Israel cannot repeat in southern Gaza the heavy civilian losses and population displacement it caused in the north.
Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv: “We discussed the details of ongoing Israeli planning and I stressed the necessity of not repeating the heavy loss of civilian lives and displacement on the scale we saw in northern Gaza in the south.” .
He added, “The Israeli government agreed to this approach.” He added that this would include concrete measures to avoid damage to vital infrastructure such as hospitals and water facilities and clearly define safe areas.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Cairo, Mohammed Salem and Roline Tufakji in Gaza, Humeyra Pamuk in Tel Aviv, Ari Rabinovich and Emily Rose in Jerusalem, Andrew Mills in Doha and the Reuters offices – Preparing by Mohammed Salem for the Arab Bulletin – Editing by Mohammed Salem) Writing by Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Feast. Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan
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A senior correspondent with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.
Humeyra Pamuk is a senior foreign policy correspondent based in Washington, DC. She covers the US State Department, and regularly travels with the US Secretary of State. During her 20 years with Reuters, she had postings in London, Dubai, Cairo and Turkey, where she covered everything from the Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria to several Turkish elections and the Kurdish insurgency in the country’s southeast. In 2017, she won the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s degree in European Union studies.
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