Sakher ABU EL OUN, AFP
And two senior Hamas officials said the Palestinian militant movement would not extend a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza that expires at 0500 GMT on Friday, accusing Israel of rejecting their demands for a truce. A leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller faction in Gaza that is also present in Cairo-mediated truce talks, confirmed the factions had decided not to extend the ceasefire. A short while prior to that, the Israeli army sent out a text message to journalists, saying: “Just now, two rockets fired from Gaza hit southern Israel. No injuries reported”. There was no immediate Israeli military response, an army spokeswoman told AFP.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri however said that “the Israeli claim of firing two rockets from Gaza is only an accusation to confuse the issues”. Israel had said earlier it was ready to “indefinitely” extend the ceasefire. Following the Hamas indication it would refuse to extend the truce, an Israeli official warned that “we might have to continue” the military campaign. “The reaction must be harsh” if Hamas renews its fire at Israel, head of the influential parliamentary foreign affairs and defence committee Zeev Elkin told public radio, without going into detail. Hamas representatives and those of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel had been meeting in Cairo for talks with Egyptian mediators on extending the ceasefire. A senior Palestinian official earlier accused Israel of procrastinating, warning it could lead to a resumption of the fighting when the deadline runs out. “The Israeli delegation is proposing extending the ceasefire while refusing a number of the Palestinian demands,” he said, without elaborating. A spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, warned late Thursday that fighting would resume if their demands were not met, first and foremost to open a sea port to the blockaded Palestinian enclave. “If there is an agreement, it will be possible to extend the truce, but if there is not, we will ask the delegation to withdraw from the talks,” a spokesman using the nom-de-guerre Abu Obeida said in a televised address.