Israel strikes Gaza after militants resume rocket fire
GAZA/JERUSALEM - Israel launched air strikes across the Gaza Strip on Friday in response to Palestinian rockets fired after Egyptian-mediated talks failed to extend a 72-hour truce in the month-long war.
Egypt later called for a resumption of the ceasefire, saying only a few points remained to be agreed. Palestinian factions said they would meet Egyptian mediators later in the day, but there was no sign of any imminent deal.
By resuming its attacks, Hamas appeared to be trying to put pressure on Israel, making clear it was ready to fight on to end a blockade of Gaza that both Israel and neighbouring Egypt have imposed on the impoverished enclave.
In the first casualties since hostilities resumed on Friday, Palestinian medical officials said a 10-year-old boy was killed in an Israeli strike near a mosque in Gaza City. An Islamic Jihad militant was killed in a later hit, local officials said.
Heavy civilian casualties and destruction during Israel's campaign against militants in packed residential areas of the Gaza Strip have raised international alarm over the past month, but efforts to prolong a ceasefire at talks inCairo failed.
Israel had earlier said it was ready to agree to an extension as Egyptian go-betweens pursued negotiations with Israeli and Palestinian delegates.
The Palestinians had wanted Israel to agree in principle to demands which include lifting the blockade on theGaza Strip, the release of prisoners and the opening of a sea port, but this had been rebuffed, Abu Zuhri said.
In Cairo, the foreign ministry called on both sides "to return immediately to the ceasefire commitment and exploit the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time".
In Gaza, some families who had returned to their homes in the northern town of Beit Hanoun during the ceasefire gathered their belongings and headed back to the United Nations shelters where they had sought refuge over the past few weeks.
It expanded its air and naval bombardment of the Gaza Strip into a ground offensive on July 17, and pulled its infantry and armour out of the enclave on Tuesday after saying it had destroyed more than 30 infiltration tunnels dug by militants.
Hamas's refusal to extend the ceasefire could further alienate Egypt, whose government has been hostile to the group and which ultimately controls Gaza's main gateway to the world, the Rafah border crossing.
The announcement that the truce would not be extended came a few minutes after it expired at 0500 GMT following lengthy talks that continued in Cairo through the night.
Palestinian negotiators from factions including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah left their hotel for talks withEgyptian intelligence at 9.30 p.m. on Thursday, returning more than six and a half hours later looking subdued and saying no deal had yet been reached.
Palestinian officials paced the lobby, speaking on their phones and holding meetings, trying to reach a final decision as the deadline approached. A source at Cairo airport said the Israeli delegation left shortly before the truce expired.