Israel, Gaza violence defies truce ‘deal’

GAZA CITY, Palestinian territories:
Israeli jets bombed targets across Gaza on Thursday, retaliating to Palestinian rocket attacks in spiraling violence that left a truce extension teetering on the brink of collapse. The resumption of hostilities shattered nearly three days of calm over the skies of Gaza and southern Israel, raising fears that a new ceasefire announced in the Egyptian capital could quickly unravel.

More than 1,950 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side have been killed since July 8, when Israel launched an offensive to destroy Hamas rockets and attack tunnels burrowing under the Jewish state. After days of shuttle diplomacy, the agreement clinched by Egypt had appeared to secure the longest period of calm in the five-week conflict and allow more time for talks on the thorniest issues that separate the two sides, the Palestinians said. An official at the Palestinian interior ministry reported four air strikes over open ground about 30 minutes into the extension of a new truce, from midnight.

Israel said it was targeting “terror sites across the Gaza Strip” in response to rocket fire. The military “will immediately respond to any threat to Israel,” it added. A spokeswoman for the Israeli army told AFP that Palestinian militants launched eight rockets towards Israel late Wednesday, six of which hit open areas and one of which was intercepted. At least two of the rocket attacks were reported after midnight, the expiry of the previous truce and the continuation of the other.

Millions of people had banked on Egyptian mediators to avoid a resumption of the violence. A previous three-day truce collapsed in a firestorm of violence on August 7.The new truce will last five days, senior Palestinian negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed said in Cairo, adding that more time was needed to discuss “some” remaining disputes with Israel over a longterm truce.

An official told AFP that Israel was willing to extend the lull by three days, but also sounded a note of caution, saying that the Palestinians were digging their heels in.”The way things stand now, it doesn’t look like it’s going to stay quiet,” he said before an Egyptian official announced an agreement.

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