International

Death returns to Gaza as cease-fire replaced by rockets, airstrikes

At least 5 Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks as Cairo talks fail to extend lull in fighting

Israeli airstrikes in Gaza resumed Friday after a 72-hour cease-fire lapsed with no extension agreed or broader deal emerging from Egyptian-mediated talks, leading to a prompt barrage of rocket launches from Palestinian fighters.

The three-day truce expired at 8 a.m. Friday, but some fighters began firing rockets even before then. By late Friday, nearly 60 rockets had been fired. Two Israelis were hurt, and one of the rockets damaged a home.

Israel responded with a series of airstrikes. Palestinian officials said at least five people were killed in three separate strikes, two of them near mosques. Among the dead were three boys, a 10-year-old and two cousins, aged 12. At least five boys were wounded.

The deaths brought the overall Palestinian toll since July 8 to 1,902, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.

Despite the resumption of fighting, on-the-ground reports suggested a lower intensity in attacks compared with earlier in the conflict.

Nonetheless, thousands of Palestinians fled their homes east of Gaza City on Friday as news of the truce’s end became known.

The cease-fire expired after no progress was seemingly made in negotiations aimed at forging a more durable solution to the conflict.

But even as fighting resumed, talks among the main Palestinian factions in Cairo were ongoing on Friday.

Representatives from Hamas, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Islamic Jihad have been meeting there for talks with Egyptian mediators on extending the cease-fire.

The resumption of violence followed an all-night meeting aimed at extending the truce. Egypt had been hoping that the cease-fire would hold even without a formal extension. But with no broader deal in the offing, the temporary truce lapsed.

Participants in talks on Friday said the further negotiations were not going well. The Israeli delegation to the Cairo talks left Egypt on Friday morning, and it was not clear if it would return.

Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Palestinian delegation, said his team would stay in Egypt until it reached an agreement that "ensures" the rights of the Palestinian people. "We told Egyptians we are staying," he told reporters.

The Palestinians have laid out a number of demands, starting with the lifting of Israel’s eight-year blockade of Gaza. They also want the release of about 125 key political prisoners held by the Israelis. Israeli demands include the demilitarization of Gaza and disarmament of Hamas.

‘Deeply distressed’

A spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, warned late on Thursday that fighting would resume if their demands were not met — foremost, opening a seaport in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

“If there is an agreement, it will be possible to extend the truce, but if there is not, we will ask the delegation to withdraw from the talks,” a spokesman using the nom de guerre Abu Obeida said in a televised address.

Despite the withdrawal of all its troops from Gaza by the time the three-day cease-fire began early on Tuesday, Israel has retained forces along the border, ready to respond to any attack from Gaza.

Four weeks of military assault on Gaza has claimed the lives of at least 429 children. United Nations figures indicate that 73 percent of the nearly 2,000 Palestinians killed in the fighting were civilians. 

On the Israeli side, three civilians have been killed by rockets or mortars from Gaza, and at least 64 soldiers have died in the fighting.

Speaking in Jerusalem after a visit to Gaza, International Committee of the Red Cross president Peter Maurer said he was “deeply distressed and shocked” by the impact of violence, saying the scale of the civilian losses must not happen again.

He also suggested there may have been violations of international humanitarian law, echoing earlier statements from Navi Pillay, chief human rights officer at the U.N., who agreed to an independent inquiry into the allegations.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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