Ceasefire in Gaza over, violence set to rise

Ceasefire in Gaza over, violence set to rise

Gaza: A six-month Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Palestinian factions, led by Hamas Islamists, in the Gaza Strip ended on Friday, raising the prospect of fresh cross-border fighting.

“We announce that the calm between us and the Zionist enemy has finished entirely and it will not be renewed as a result of the occupation’s denial of its fundamental conditions and obligations," Hamas’s armed wing, Izz el-Deen al-Qassam, said in a statement saying the truce had expired at 9:30am.

Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip said they were prepared for any military escalation with Israeli forces and possible Israeli army raids into the territory. They said their gunmen had undergone training during the six-month truce.

Qassam Brigades said any Israeli incursion would “open the doors of the battle wide and would be met by a painful response from our side".

“The calm is over," Hamas official Ayman Taha said in an announcement after concluding talks with Palestinian factions on Thursday in the coastal enclave controlled by the Islamist group.

He said the ceasefire would not be renewed “because the enemy did not abide by its obligations" to ease a crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip and halt all attacks.

An Israeli military source said two rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel on Friday morning, after the truce was declared to have ended, and that a cross-border shooting from Gaza at a collective farm also resulted in no casualties.

Hamas stopped short of threatening an immediate escalation of violence against Israel, which had hoped to extend the truce and appears wary of a confrontation that could cause heavy casualties on both sides.

Palmor did not name foreign influences, but Hamas gets support from Iran and Hamas leaders live in exile in Syria.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said more than 30 rockets launched from Gaza into Israel over the weekend were “the opposite of calm".

Israel is willing to abide by the truce terms but “every rocket launched is a direct and flagrant violation of the understandings reached and cannot be tolerated," he said.

The European Union called for an immediate cessation of both rocket fire and Israeli incursions.

Tensions along the Israeli-Gaza border have been escalating since early last month when a deadly Israeli army raid triggered a wave of rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.