Israel-Gaza Situation Report: Ceasefire Ends

Hamas rockets rained down across Israel and the IDF continued its bombardment of Gaza as both sides blamed each other for the ceasefire’s end.

byHoward Altman|
After a breakdown in hostage negotiations, fighting resumed in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, which rained rockets down across Israel.
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Israel and Hamas resumed their war Friday after a week-long pause as negotiations over hostages broke down.

Hamas launched rockets into Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) returned to bombarding Gaza while each side blamed the other for why the ceasefire could not continue into an eighth day. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts continue for another at least temporary halt to hostilities.

“Following Hamas’ violation of the pause, combat has resumed in the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said on Telegram. Since 7 a.m. local time, “the IDF has struck over 200 terror targets.”

In addition, “over the last few hours, ground, air and naval forces struck terror targets in the north and south of the Gaza Strip, including in Khan Yunis and Rafah,” the IDF said. It also “struck areas booby-trapped with explosives, terror tunnel shafts, launch posts, and operational command centers designated by Hamas for use in the renewed fighting.”

Within hours of the truce expiring, Gaza health officials reported that 109 people had been killed and dozens wounded in air strikes. The War Zone cannot independently verify casualty claims by either side.

Hamas launched several rocket salvos into Israel, including on Ashdod, Ashkelon,  Beersheba, Sderot and across central Israel.

Haggling over the fate of over 130 remaining hostages held by Hamas after its Oct. 7 surprise invasion of Israel sparked the resumption of bloodshed.

Hamas couldn’t produce a list Friday morning of another 10 people to be freed, prompting Israel to say Hamas had violated the terms of the truce. Attempts to extend the pause collapsed in part because Hamas was facing difficulty obtaining access to four female hostages held by other groups in Gaza, Egyptian officials said.

Hamas blamed Israel.

"The Zionist occupation bears accountability for reigniting the genocidal war and Nazi aggression against the Gaza Strip, persistently rejecting offers throughout the night for the release of detainees," Hamas said on Telegram.

Speaking to reporters during his visit to the United Arab Emirates Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken laid the blame for the end of the ceasefire on Hamas.

"It came to an end because of Hamas," he said. "Hamas reneged on commitments it made. In fact, even before the pause came to an end, it committed an atrocious terrorist attack in Jerusalem, killing three people, wounding others, including Americans. It began firing rockets before the pause had ended.  And as I said, it reneged on commitments it made in terms of releasing certain hostages."

Even as the fighting has flared up again, efforts continue to stop it.

"Mediators from Egypt and Qatar were engaged in intense negotiations with the two sides," The Wall Street Journal reported.

The U.S. was hopeful that negotiators could restore the truce, an effort that relies on Hamas releasing additional hostages, according to the publication.

"The discussions centered in part on American hostages whose release has been withheld because their captors view them as strategic assets that could provide leverage for securing a future cease-fire or other concessions now that fighting has resumed," the Journal said.

Israel has promised in recent days to undertake a more targeted military operation that aimed to limit civilian casualties as well as damage to buildings and other infrastructure, according to a U.S. official cited by the Journal.

Still, Palestinian authorities say civilian structures were hit, adding to the death toll of more than 15,000, which includes Hamas fighters.

People mourn as they collect the bodies of Palestinians killed in an airstrike on December 1, 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza. (Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

In addition to the human toll, Israel's bombardment of Gaza has destroyed nearly 100,000 buildings, mostly in the northern part of the enclave, the BBC reported.

The IDF, which has suggested it will take its fight to the south of Gaza where more than a million Palestinians have fled, published an evacuation map Friday it said showed safe areas for civilians to go.

"The terrorist organization Hamas uses the residents of the Gaza Strip as human shields, placing its command and military infrastructure in residential areas, hospitals, mosques, and schools," the IDF said. "Hamas turns civilian sites into military targets while using civilians and civilian facilities as a human shield."

"In preparation for the next stage of the war, the IDF is publishing the Evacuation Zone Map in the Gaza Strip. This divides the territory of the Gaza Strip into areas according to recognizable areas to enable the residents of Gaza to orient themselves and understand the instructions, and to evacuate from specific places for their safety if required."

Israel’s intelligence services are preparing to kill Hamas leaders around the world after the current war ends, setting the stage for a years-long campaign to hunt down militants responsible for the Oct. 7 massacres, Israeli officials said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered Israel’s top spy agencies draw up plans to hunt down Hamas leaders living in Lebanon, Turkey and Qatar, the small Gulf nation that has allowed the group to run a political office in Doha for a decade, an officials told The Wall Street Journal.

Israel knew about the Hamas plans to stage an invasion for a year, The New York Times reported, citing documents, emails and interviews.

Despite that, "Israeli military and intelligence officials dismissed the plan as aspirational, considering it too difficult for Hamas to carry out," the publication reported.

The approximately 40-page document, which the Israeli authorities code-named “Jericho Wall,” outlined, point by point, exactly the kind of devastating invasion that led to the deaths of about 1,200 people.

Fighting along the Lebanese border, which had been mostly calm during the ceasefire, also flared up again Friday.

The IDF said it "struck a terrorist cell that was operating in Lebanon adjacent to the area of Zar'it."

In addition, "a number of launches were identified crossing from Lebanon toward IDF posts in the area of Rosh HaNikra and Margaliot, as well as toward the city of Kiryat Shmona. The IDF Aerial Defense Array successfully intercepted two launches in the area of Kiryat Shmona."

The IDF said it responded with artillery fire.

Attacks against U.S. forces in Syria resumed Friday, a U.S. military official told The War Zone.

"The U.S. base at Shaddadi came under rocket attack, but everything fell outside the wire," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss operational details. There were no injuries or damage and U.S. troops did not engage air defense systems.

This marks the 75th attack on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militias since Oct. 17.

On Thursday, a loose-knit group of Iranian-backed militias called The Islamic Resistance in Iraq issued a warning to the U.S.

"While the Islamic Resistance in Iraq affirms that it will not leave its people in this war to face the tyrants of the world alone, it declares its readiness and readiness to escalate military operations inside and outside Iraq, if the American enemy insists on the continuation of the Zionist killing machine, whether in steadfast Gaza or in proud southern Lebanon," the group said on Telegram. "Indeed, we have warned you of a near punishment."

This is a developing story. We will update it when there is more news to report about the Israel-Hamas war.

Contact the author: howard@thewarzone.com

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