Israel strikes Gaza after militants resume rocket fire

GAZA/JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – Israel launched air strikes across the Gaza Strip yesterday in response to Palestinian rockets after Egyptian-mediated talks failed to extend a 72-hour truce in a month-old war.

Egypt later called for a resumption of the ceasefire, saying only a few points remained to be agreed. Palestinian factions said they would meet Egyptian mediators later in the day but there was no sign of any imminent deal.

An Israeli government official said Israel would not negotiate with Palestinians while militants continued to unleash missiles. As warning sirens sounded in southern Israel, the military said “Gaza terrorists” had fired at least 57 rockets on Friday and the “Iron Dome” interceptor system had been used against some of them. Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the salvoes from the Hamas-dominated enclave.

Accusing Hamas of breaking the ceasefire, Israel said several of the rockets had been launched about four hours before the truce was due to end at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT). Heavier barrages followed shortly after the ceasefire period expired. By resuming the attacks, Gaza militants appeared to be trying to put pressure on Israel, making clear they were ready to fight on to end a blockade of the coastal territory that both Israel and neighbouring Egypt have imposed. In the first casualties since hostilities resumed on Friday, Palestinian medical officials said a 10-year-old boy was killed in an Israeli strike near a mosque in Gaza City. An Islamic Jihad militant and three other Palestinians were killed in attacks from the air in the southern Gaza Strip. In Israel, police said two people were injured by mortar fire from Gaza. Israel’s armed forces said they had responded to the cross-border attacks by targeting 51 “terror sites” across the Gaza Strip, including rocket launchers and military compounds and headquarters, and would continue to strike Hamas and its infrastructure and operatives.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said on Channel 2 television that Gaza militants “have to get hit in return, and not in the same proportion, but to a greater degree”.

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