Israeli warplanes resumed the pounding of Gaza, Palestinian civilians fled for shelter and rocket sirens blared in southern Israel on Friday as war resumed after a week-long truce collapsed with no deal to extend it.
The Israeli military announced it had “resumed combat operations”, accusing Hamas of violating the truce first by firing rockets. It said its planes were bombing “terrorist targets” in the enclave.
Hamas said Israel bore responsibility for the end of the truce, accusing it of rejecting all offers to release more of the hostages militants in the enclave are holding.
As the deadline lapsed, Reuters journalists in Khan Younis in southern Gaza saw eastern areas come under intensive bombardment, sending columns of smoke rising into the sky. Residents took to the streets fleeing for shelter further west.
In the north of the enclave, the main war zone before the truce, huge plumes of smoke rose above the ruins, seen from across the fence in Israel. The rattle of gunfire and thud of explosions rang out above the sound of barking dogs.
Barely two hours after the truce expired, Gaza’s Hamas-controlled health ministry reported that 32 people had already been killed in air strikes.
“With the resumption of fighting we emphasise: The Israeli government is committed to achieving the goals of the war – to free our hostages, to eliminate Hamas, and to ensure that Gaza will never pose a threat to the residents of Israel,” the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Hamas was equally defiant: “What Israel did not achieve during the fifty days before the truce, it will not achieve by continuing its aggression after the truce,” Ezzat El Rashq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said on the group’s website.
“With the steadfastness of our people and the heroism of our resistance, we confront the enemy’s crimes, the resumption of its Nazi aggression, and its targeting of civilians.”
The seven-day pause, which began on Nov. 24 and was extended twice, had allowed for the exchange of hostages held in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners and facilitated the entry of humanitarian aid into the shattered coastal strip.
Eighty Israeli women and children hostages were freed in return for 240 Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails, all women and teens. An additional 25 foreign hostages, mainly Thai farmworkers, were also released under parallel deals.
Mediators had sought to extend the truce by finding a formula for hostage releases to continue, possibly to include Israeli men now that fewer women and children remained in captivity.
Israel has sworn to annihilate Hamas in response to the Oct. 7 rampage by the militant group, when Israel says gunmen killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages. Hamas, sworn to Israel’s destruction, has ruled Gaza since 2007.
Israel’s bombardment and ground invasion have laid waste to much of the territory. Palestinian health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations say more than 15,000 Gazans have been confirmed killed and thousands more are missing and feared buried under rubble.
The United Nations says as many as 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million have been driven from their homes, with no way to escape the narrow territory, many sleeping rough in makeshift shelters.
Israel has imposed a total siege, and residents and humanitarian agencies say aid that arrived during the truce was trivial compared to the vast needs of so many displaced people.