DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli warplanes struck targets in the Gaza Strip minutes after a week-long truce expired Friday, as the war with Hamas resumed in full force. Black smoke rose from the besieged territory and Israel dropped leaflets over parts of southern Gaza urging people to leave their homes, suggesting it was preparing to expand its offensive.
The renewed hostilities have raised concerns about the around 140 hostages who remain in Gaza, after more than 100 were freed as part of the truce. Qatar, which has acted as a mediator alongside Egypt, said negotiators from both sides were still trying to reach an agreement to restart the ceasefire.
The resumption of hostilities “complicates mediation efforts and exacerbates the humanitarian catastrophe,” Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said.
The resumption of fighting came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli officials and urged them to do more to protect Palestinian civilians as they seek to destroy Hamas. Blinken arrived on Friday at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai, where he was to meet Arab foreign ministers and other officials.
It was unclear to what extent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would heed calls from the United States, Israel’s most important ally. Netanyahu’s office said Friday that Israel “is committed to achieving the goals of the war: freeing the hostages, eliminating Hamas and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to the residents of Israel.”
Just hours after the renewed offensive, the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza said 32 people had been killed and dozens wounded.
In leaflets it dropped in southern Gaza, Israel urged people to leave their homes east of the city of Khan Younis. The leaflets also warned that Khan Younis was now a “dangerous battle zone.”
The Israeli military also published a map dividing the Gaza Strip into hundreds of numbered plots and asked residents to know the number associated with their location in case of an eventual evacuation. He said the map would eventually be interactive, but it was not immediately clear how Palestinians would be updated about their designated plot numbers and evacuation calls.
Hundreds of thousands of people fled northern Gaza at the start of the war, with many taking refuge in Khan Younis and other places in the south.
Hamas freed eight additional Israeli hostages and Israel freed another group of 30 Palestinian prisoners under a last-minute deal to extend its ceasefire for another day in Gaza. (December 1st)
One of the first airstrikes on Friday destroyed a large building in Khan Younis. Moments later, residents were seen frantically searching through the rubble for survivors as medics approached. An injured person was carried on a stretcher.
In Hamad City, a Qatari-funded development near the city, an attack hit an apartment in a multi-story residential building, while other parts of the building appeared largely intact.
Elsewhere, a strike hit a house near Gaza City in the north, and in the Maghazi refugee camp near the center of the Gaza Strip, rescuers searched through the rubble of a large building hit by planes of combat. One foot stuck out of the tangle of concrete and wiring.
Israel has said it is targeting Hamas operatives and blames Hamas for civilian casualties, accusing the militants of operating in residential neighborhoods. Since the war broke out on October 7, In response to a deadly Hamas attack on southern Israel, many of those killed in Israeli bombings have been women and children.
In Israel, sirens warning of incoming rockets sounded at several communal farms near Gaza, a sign that Hamas also resumed attacks, but there were no reports of hits or damage.
Trails of white smoke could be seen in the skies over Sderot, on the border with northern Gaza, after Israel’s missile protection systems were activated.
Netanyahu said the war resumed because Hamas had violated the terms of the truce. “He has failed to fulfill his obligation to release all women hostages today and has fired rockets at Israeli citizens,” he said in a statement.
Hamas blamed Israel for the end of the truce and said in a statement that it had rejected all offers made by Hamas to release more hostages and bodies.
The Israeli army’s announcement of renewed attacks came just 30 minutes after the ceasefire expired at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Friday. Earlier Friday, Israel accused Hamas of having violated the terms of the ceasefire, including by firing rockets into Israel from Gaza.
The cessation of fighting began on November 24. It initially lasted four days and was later extended for several days with the help of Qatar and mediator Egypt.
During the week-long truce, Hamas and other militants in Gaza freed more than 100 hostages, most of them. Israelisin exchange for the release of 240 Palestinians from Israeli prisons.
Virtually all of those freed were women and children, but the fact that few hostages remained in Gaza made it difficult to reach an agreement to extend the ceasefire.
Hamas, a militant group that has ruled Gaza for 16 years, was expected to set a higher price for the remaining hostages, especially the Israeli soldiers.
It was not immediately clear whether negotiators were continuing their efforts to reach another temporary ceasefire. Qatar and Egyptwho have played a key role as the mediators had attempted to extend the truce for another two days.
Thursday, Blinken met with Netanyahu and other senior officials on his third visit to the region since the start of the war two months ago.
While at the time he expressed hope that the ceasefire could be extended, Blinken said that if Israel resumed the war and advanced against southern Gaza to pursue Hamas, it must do so “in accordance with international humanitarian law” and must have “a clear plan in place” to protect civilians.
He said Israeli leaders understood that “the massive levels of civilian life and scale of displacement that we saw in the north must not be repeated in the south.”
Most of Gaza’s population is now crammed into the dead-end south, raising questions about how an Israeli offensive there can avoid numerous civilian casualties.
Netanyahu has been under intense pressure of the hostages’ families to bring them home. But his far-right ruling partners have also pressured him to continue the war until Hamas is destroyed, and could abandon his coalition if he is deemed to be making too many concessions.
A total of 83 Israelis, including dual citizens, were released during the truce, most of whom appeared physically well but shaken. Another 24 hostages (23 Thais and one Filipino) were also freed, including several men.
He 240 Palestinians Those released so far under the ceasefire were mostly teenagers accused of throwing stones and firebombs during clashes with Israeli forces. Several of the freed women were convicted by military courts of attempting to attack soldiers, some of them after being found carrying scissors or knives near security posts.
Hamas started war with a deadly attack on October 7 against Israel, during which it and other Palestinian militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 240 captive. Authorities have only provided approximate figures.
Since then, Israel’s bombings and invasion of Gaza have killed more than 13,300 Palestinians, approximately two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Ministry of Health in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. More than three-quarters of the population of 2.3 million people have been uprooted, after weeks of Israeli bombing and a ground campaign, which led to a humanitarian crisis.
The figure is likely much higher, as officials have only updated the count sporadically since Nov. 11. The ministry says thousands more people are feared dead under the rubble.
Israel says 77 of its soldiers were killed in the ground offensive. He claims to have killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence.
Mroue reported from Lebanon, Rising from Bangkok and Frankel from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Complete AP coverage on https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war