Israel-Gaza conflict: Three-day ceasefire ends as strikes and rocket fire resume

The 72-hour truce expired on Friday morning

Five Palestinians have died after the Israeli military resumed strikes on targets "across the Gaza strip", in response to Hamas rocket fire as a 72-hour ceasefire expired this morning.

Three of those who died were children, Palestinian officials said. Two Israelis were wounded by rocket fire, according to police.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) accused Gaza militants of firing a barrage of 18 rockets at southern Israel shortly after the three-day truce between Israel and Hamas expired at 8am local time. Fourteen hit open areas and two were intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defence system.

The Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev blamed militants for breaking the truce, saying: "The ceasefire is over - they did that."

An Israeli government official said Israel would not negotiate with Palestinians about renewing the truce in Gaza as long as militants continued to launch rockets.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas rejected an extension on a three-day ceasefire, saying Israel had failed to meet its demands during negotiations in Egypt.

Earlier, a senior Hamas official said the militant group would not extend the truce as Israel had rejected all of Hamas' demands in Egyptian-brokered talks, including the re-opening of Gaza's borders.

A spokesman from Hamas' military wing had earlier released a statement calling on Palestinian negotiators holding indirect talks in Cairo to reject any ceasefire unless its demands were met. However, he said negotiations in Cairo would continue.

The talks followed a month of bitter Israel-Hamas fighting, during which some 1,900 Palestinians have been killed and more than 9,000 wounded.

Air strikes have devastated large areas along Gaza's border with Israel and displaced tens of thousands of people. Sixty-seven people, all but three of them soldiers, were killed on the Israeli side, and Gaza militants fired thousands of rockets at Israel over the past month.

According to one Palestinian media report, Egypt had proposed that even without a formal extension of the truce, the two sides would hold their fire in coming days to allow for a continuation of the negotiations. 

The expiration of the temporary truce was preceded by all-night meetings between Egyptian mediators and the Palestinian delegation in Cairo.

Video: Israeli PM - 'Our enemy is Hamas'

The Cairo talks focused on new border arrangements for Gaza, including the lifting of a blockade by Israel and Egypt and reconstruction of the battered territory. Israel and Egypt had enforced the blockade to varying degrees since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007.

Israel has said it is willing to consider easing the border restrictions, but demands that Hamas disarm, a condition the militant group has rejected. 

Israel argues that it needs to keep Gaza's borders as long as Hamas tries to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

On 8 July, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on the coastal territory, and nine days later, sent in ground troops to target rocket launchers and a network of cross-border tunnels it says are built by Hamas to conduct attacks inside Israel.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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