There has been renewed rocket fire on Israel after a three-day truce expired today and negotiations in Cairo on a new border deal for the coastal strip hit a deadlock.
The Israeli military said at least 10 rockets were fired at Israel after the temporary truce expired at 8am (6am Irish time). One rocket was intercepted over the city of Ashkelon, while the others hit open areas.
In Jerusalem, government spokesman Mark Regev blamed Gaza militants for breaking the ceasefire.
“The ceasefire is over,” Regev said. “They did that.”
He would not say whether Israel was interested in extending the ceasefire, or whether Israel would respond to the rockets.
Earlier, a senior Hamas official said the militant group would not extend the ceasefire. He said that Israel had rejected all of Hamas’ demands in the Egyptian-brokered talks, including a guarantee in principle that Gaza’s borders would be opened.
The talks in Cairo followed a month of bitter Israel-Hamas fighting.
Israeli strikes on Gaza killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians, wounded more than 9,000, devastated large areas along Gaza’s border with Israel and displaced tens of thousands of people.
Sixty-seven people, all but three of them soldiers, were killed on the Israeli side, and Gaza militants fired thousands of rockets at Israel over the past month.
Israel said it was going after Hamas targets, including rocket launching sites and military tunnels, and carried out close to 5,000 strikes.
The UN said most of those killed in Gaza were civilians and that in dozens of cases, strikes hit family homes, killing multiple members of the same family at once. The Israeli military said initial estimates show at least 40% of those killed were fighters.
It was not clear whether today’s renewed rocket fire and tough messages from Hamas were negotiating tactics or the beginning of a return to fighting.
According to one Palestinian media report, Egypt had proposed that even without a formal extension of the truce, the two sides would hold their fire in coming days to allow for a continuation of the negotiations.
The expiration of the temporary truce was preceded by all-night meetings between Egyptian mediators and the Palestinian delegation in Cairo, which continued this morning.
The Israeli delegation left Cairo today, according to a Cairo airport official.
The Cairo talks focused on new border arrangements for Gaza, including the lifting of a blockade by Israel and Egypt and reconstruction of the battered territory. Israel and Egypt had enforced the blockade to varying degrees since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007.
Israel has said it is willing to consider easing the border restrictions, but demands that Hamas disarm, a condition the Islamic militant group has rejected.
Hamas has said it is willing to hand over some power in Gaza to enable its long-time rival, Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, to lead Gaza reconstruction efforts, but that it would not give up its arsenal and control over thousands of armed men.
Israel argues that it needs to keep Gaza’s borders under a blockade as long as Hamas tries to smuggle weapons into Gaza.
The closure has led to widespread hardship in the Mediterranean seaside territory. Movement in and out of Gaza is limited, the economy has ground to a standstill and unemployment is over 50%.
The Gaza war grew out of the killing of three Israeli teenagers 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.
Shortly before the truce expired today, Israel’s international airport halted all incoming and outgoing flights for 30 minutes, apparently as a precautionary measure. Airports authority spokeswoman Liza Dvir said after the half hour, operations resumed as normal.