After a week-long ceasefire, the war in the Gaza Strip is back in full force. The Israeli army resumed fighting against Islamist Hamas on Friday, attacking more than 200 targets north and south of the blocked coastline within a few hours. Dozens of rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip. Efforts to extend the ceasefire and release more hostages have previously failed.
According to mediator Qatar, negotiations were ongoing to at least stop the hostilities again. The United Nations also pushed for this. A spokesman for US President Joe Biden’s National Security Council said of the negotiations: “Hamas has not yet submitted a hostage list that would allow for a further extension of the pause.”
The Israeli military confirmed on Friday the deaths of five hostages kidnapped to the Gaza Strip by the radical Islamist Palestinian organization Hamas. Army spokesman Daniel Hagari said relatives were informed and the hostage’s body was returned to Israel.
The reason for Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip was the death of approximately 1,200 people and the kidnapping of nearly 240 hostages in the Hamas attack on Israel. Last week, Israel and Hamas reached an agreement on a ceasefire for the first time, with the mediation of Qatar, Egypt and the United States, and this ceasefire was briefly extended twice. During this period, Hamas released 105 hostages and Israel released 240 Palestinian prisoners.
Additionally, tons of aid supplies arrived in the Gaza Strip for approximately two million Palestinian civilians. The Palestinian Red Crescent mentioned that 1,000 trucks were carrying aid materials, 310 of which were in the north of the closed area.
It was not possible to extend the agreement further on Friday night. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office blamed Hamas: “Today Hamas failed to fulfill its obligation to release all female hostages and fired rockets at Israeli citizens.”
Hamas official Khalil Al Haya told Arab television channel Al Jazeera that Israel rejected “many offers, initiatives and proposals” to extend the ceasefire. According to the army, after the deadline expired at 06:00 (CET) on Friday morning, Israeli warplanes attacked Hamas targets again.
The Israeli army assessed the situation in the afternoon: Land, air and naval forces attacked 200 targets, including the southern Gaza Strip. The military had previously urged residents of the northern coastline for weeks to flee south for their safety. Israel is now expected to expand its attacks in the south.
The military said Friday it targeted booby-trapped areas as well as tunnel shafts, launch pads and command centers. The information could not be independently verified. This also applies to the statements of the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip that 178 people died in the attacks. Hundreds more were injured.
After the ceasefire ended, aid deliveries were stopped through the Rafah border gate in the Gaza Strip. This was confirmed on Friday by the Palestinian spokesman for the border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. UN emergency relief agency OCHA has called for free access to more aid convoys. UN children’s fund Unicef strongly condemned the new conflict and spoke of the risk of a bloodbath.
The responsible authority in Israel told the Times of Israel that “imports of humanitarian aid as specified in the agreement” had been stopped. Still, several dozen trucks crossed the border carrying food and medicine. However, the fuel was not delivered. It was initially unclear whether the vehicles had crossed the border crossing area.
The previous day, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken openly called on the Israeli leadership to protect civilians in the Gaza Strip. The large number of civilian deaths and displacements seen in the north of the Gaza Strip should not be repeated in the south.
Israeli government spokesman Tal Heinrich told CNN that plans for safe zones and more humanitarian corridors have been presented to Blinken. The Israeli army published a map dividing the area into numbered zones for civilians “in preparation for the next phase of the war.” This is intended to enable residents to “orient themselves, understand instructions, and reach safety from specific locations if necessary.”
Hamas blamed the international community, and the United States in particular, for “the continuation of the brutal war against civilians, children and women.” The statement stated that the Palestinian people have “the right to defend themselves by any means necessary.” The Israeli government reiterated its goal to destroy Hamas.
Israel suspects that 137 hostages are currently being held in the Gaza Strip, including 115 men, 20 women and 2 children.
On Friday, clashes broke out again on the Lebanon-Israel border. Iran-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon said it attacked a group of “enemy soldiers” in the border area in the afternoon. The Israeli military reported shelling from Lebanon and said it had attacked a terrorist cell in the neighboring country. According to Lebanese security sources, a Hezbollah member and his mother were killed.