GAZA/JERUSALEM – Israel said it 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.
As rocket-warning sirens sounded in southern Israel, the military said Hamas had fired at least 18 rockets from Gaza and Israel's Iron Dome interceptor system brought down two. No injuries or damage were reported. Gaza militants said they had fired 10 rockets on Friday.
After a huge explosion in Gaza City, apparently from an air raid, a military spokesman said Israel had responded to Hamas rocket fire by launching air strikes at ‘terror sites’ across the Gaza Strip. "We will continue to strike Hamas, its infrastructure, its operatives, and restore security for the State of Israel," Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said in a statement.
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 extend a ceasefire at talks in Cairo failed.
Israel had earlier said it was ready to agree to an extension as Egyptian go-betweens pursued negotiations with Israeli and Palestinian delegates. A Hamas spokesman said Palestinian factions had not agreed to extend the truce, but would continue negotiations in Cairo.
Islamist blamed Israel for rejecting Palestinian demands, adding Israel "will not get through politics what it had failed to get on the battlefield". The Palestinians had wanted Israel to agree in principle to demands which include a lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, the release of prisoners and the opening of a sea port.
The armed wing of Hamas released a statement late on Thursday warning Palestinian negotiators not to agree to an extension unless Israel offered concessions.