TEL AVIV - Israel resumed combat against Hamas in the Gaza Strip after a week-long truce between the two sides ended on Friday morning.
Hamas had violated the cease-fire, Israel’s army said shortly after the pause in fighting was set to end at 7am local time. The army, known as the Israel Defense Forces, said Hamas fired toward Israeli territory.
"The IDF has resumed combat against the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip," it said, adding that its jets were already striking the group’s targets in the Palestinian territory.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Tel Aviv when fighting restarted, but due to leave shortly after. On Thursday, he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the “massive loss of civilian life” in northern Gaza — where Israeli ground forces are concentrated — must not be repeated in the south. It’s widely expected that the IDF will send troops to that part of the strip next as it tries to destroy Hamas.
Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians had consistently said the war would resume at some stage and that the truce would not become permanent.
"There is no situation in which we do not go back to fighting until the end," Netanyahu said on Wednesday. "The entire government is behind it. The soldiers are behind it. The people are behind it."
Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the US, and Israel agreed on Thursday to extend their cease-fire, which began on Nov 24, for another 24 hours.
There was no announcement from Qatar, the main mediator in their negotiations, after the deadline passed.
Shortly before then, the Israeli military reported that air-raid sirens had gone off in a kibbutz near Gaza.
Israel and Hamas have been at war since Oct 7, when the Iran-backed group’s fighters swarmed southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people and abducting 240. More than 15,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel started retaliatory airstrikes and a ground offensive, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run enclave.
An Israeli soldier aims a weapon as they operate in the Gaza Strip, after a temporary truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas expired, in this handout picture released on Friday. (Photo: Reuters)
Under the truce, Hamas freed some of the hostages each day and Israel released Palestinian prisoners, as well as allowed more aid into Gaza from Egypt.
Hamas and other Islamist groups are still thought to be holding around 130 people captive in Gaza. It iss unclear how many of those are still alive and how many are civilians as opposed to Israeli soldiers.
The hostages talks, which involved Egypt and the US as well as Qatar, have been fraught. Israel and Hamas have haggled over the number of hostages and prisoners to be released each day.