Israel’s warplanes pounded Gaza on Friday after talks to extend a week-old truce with Hamas collapsed, sending wounded and dead Palestinians into hospitals and others onto the streets to seek safety.
More than 100 Palestinians were killed in the airstrikes on Friday, according to officials from the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.
Israel had bombarded Gaza for weeks in the wake of a Hamas attack inside Israel on 7 October that killed 1,200 people and saw another 240 taken hostage into Gaza. Palestinian health officials in the Hamas-controlled territory say more than 14,000 people have been killed since the Israeli military operation began. The airstrikes have been backed up by a ground offensive and a blockade that has left water, food, fuel and medical supplies all running short.
The UN said the renewed fighting would worsen the extreme humanitarian emergency. “Hell on earth has returned to Gaza,” Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office in Geneva, said. The week-long truce had allowed more than 100 hostages out of Gaza, including Israelis and foreign nationals, in exchange for more than 180 Palestinians being held inside Israeli jails. It also allowed residents of Gaza some respite from the aerial bombardment and more aid to be allowed into the territory. That level of aid, which agencies said still wasn’t enough to meet the needs of residents, is now at risk.
Mr Laerke said that the week-long truce had seen significantly larger humanitarian convoys entering densely populated Gaza, even reaching north of Wadi Gaza, which prior to the pause had received almost no supplies. “With the resumption of war, we fear that the continuation of this [aid] is now in doubt,” he said.
The US secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, echoed Israeli claims that Hamas began firing missiles prior to the end of the pause in the early hours of Friday, triggering the breakdown. Air raid sirens went off around the end of the truce at 7am local time, in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, near the Gaza border. Hamas also accused Israel of violating the ceasefire.
Mr Blinken told reporters in Dubai, where he is attending the Cop28 summit, that the group “reneged on the commitments it made in terms of releasing certain hostages” and “began firing rockets before the pause had ended”.
Just after 7.30am, smoke could then be seen billowing from the rubble of buildings hit by the latest round of Israeli airstrikes.
Israel’s military said its ground, air and naval forces had struck more than 200 of what it called “terror targets” in the enclave since the morning.
“This morning, as promised, we resumed our attack,” former defence minister Benny Gantz, who joined prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an emergency unity government last month, said in a statement.
One of the first strikes destroyed a large building in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. Moments later, residents were seen frantically searching the rubble for survivors as medics approached. One wounded person was carried away on a stretcher.
Gaza residents said they feared that the bombing of southern parts of the enclave could herald an expansion of the war into areas Israel had previously described as safe, with Israel’s forces having generally been focused on northern Gaza.
Leaflets dropped on eastern areas of the main southern city Khan Younis ordered residents of four towns to evacuate – not to other areas in Khan Younis as in the past, but further south to the crowded town of Rafah on the Egyptian border. “You have to evacuate immediately and go to the shelters in the Rafah area. Khan Younis is a dangerous fighting zone. You have been warned,” said the leaflets, written in Arabic.
Israel released a link to a map showing Gaza divided into hundreds of districts, which it said would be used in future to communicate which areas were safe.
“The resumption of hostilities in Gaza is catastrophic,” said Volker Turk, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights. “I urge all parties and states with influence over them to redouble efforts, immediately, to ensure a ceasefire on humanitarian and human rights grounds.”
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said he regretted the resumption of hostilities and hoped a new pause could be established. “The return to hostilities only shows how important it is to have a true humanitarian ceasefire,” he said.
Appealing for a lasting ceasefire, UN’s children’s agency (Unicef) called inaction on Gaza “an approval of the killing of children”. Unicef spokesperson James Elder posted a video from a children’s hospital in Khan Younis an hour and a half after the end of the ceasefire.
“The ceasefire is over,” he said. “We can already hear the bombing. There was a hit about 50 metres from here.”
Fighting also resumed in northern Israel, on the Lebanese border, after the Iran-backed group Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, said it had carried out several attacks on Israeli military positions at the border in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army said its artillery struck sources of fire from Lebanon and air defences had intercepted two launches. The army also said it struck a “terrorist cell”. Sirens warning of possible incoming rockets sounded in several towns in northern Israel, sending residents running for shelter.
Renewed hostilities have also heightened concerns for about 140 hostages who remain in Gaza. The location of some of the hostages remains uncertain.
The halt in fighting began on 24 November. It initially lasted for four days and was then extended for several days with the help of Qatar and fellow mediator Egypt.
During the week-long truce, Hamas and other militants in Gaza released more than 100 hostages, most of them Israelis, in return for 240 Palestinians freed from prisons in Israel.
Qatar said negotiations were continuing with Israelis and Palestinians in hopes of restoring the truce, but that Israel’s renewed bombardment of Gaza had complicated its efforts.
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