Gaza conflict resumes after weeklong truce with Hamas ends


DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel's war with Hamas resumed in full force Friday. Israeli airstrikes hit targets in the Gaza Strip minutes after a weeklong truce expired. And in Israel, sirens warned of incoming rockets at several communal farms near Gaza, a sign that militants also restarted attacks. 

The renewed hostilities heightened concerns for Palestinians, as well as about 140 hostages still in Gaza, after more than 100 were freed during the truce.

Qatar, which has served as a mediator along with Egypt, said negotiators were still trying to restart the cease-fire. 

A day earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli officials and urged them to do more to protect Palestinian civilians as they seek to destroy Hamas. 

Israel's retaliation for Hamas' deadly Oct. 7 raid has killed thousands of Palestinians and uprooted most of Gaza's 2.3 million people. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are now crammed into the territory's south with no exit, raising questions over how any Israeli offensive there could avoid heavy civilian casualties.

It was not clear to what extent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will heed appeals from the United States, Israel’s most important ally. Netanyahu’s office said Friday that Israel “is committed to achieving the goals of the war: releasing the hostages, eliminating Hamas and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to the residents of Israel.”

Only hours in to the renewed offensive, the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza claimed 109 people had been killed and dozens wounded.

In the leaflets it dropped in southern Gaza, Israel urged people to leave homes east of Khan Younis, warning that the southern town was now a “dangerous battle zone.” Other leaflets warned residents of several neighborhoods in Gaza City in the north to move south.

The Israeli military also released a map carving up the Gaza Strip into hundreds of numbered parcels, and asked residents to learn the number associated with their location in case of an eventual evacuation. It was not immediately clear how Palestinians would be updated on calls for evacuation.

Hundreds of thousands of people fled northern Gaza earlier in the war, in an extraordinary mass exodus that saw many take shelter in Khan Younis and other places in the south.

Israel has said it is targeting Hamas operatives and blames civilian casualties on the group, accusing the militants of operating in residential neighborhoods. 

In Israel, white smoke trails could be seen in the skies over Sderot on the border with northern Gaza after Israel's missile protection systems activated.

Netanyahu said the war resumed because Hamas had violated the terms of the truce. “It has not met its obligation to release all of the women hostages today and has launched rockets at Israeli citizens,” he said in a statement.

The Israeli military’s announcement of the resumption of strikes came only 30 minutes after the cease-fire expired early Friday.

During the weeklong 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.

A total of 81 Israelis, including dual nationals, were freed during the truce, most of whom appeared physically well but shaken. Another 24 hostages — 23 Thais and one Filipino — were also released, including several men.

The Palestinian prisoners who were released were mostly teenagers accused of throwing stones and firebombs during confrontations with Israeli forces. Several were women who were convicted by military courts of attempting to attack soldiers.