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Temporary truce in Gaza war expires

A Palestinian boy surveyed the destruction of buildings in a residential neighborhood in Gaza.

AP

A Palestinian boy surveyed the destruction of buildings in a residential neighborhood in Gaza.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Gaza militants renewed rocket fire on Israel, after a three-day cease-fire expired on Friday and negotiations in Cairo on a new border deal for blockaded Gaza hit a deadlock.

The Israeli military said at least 17 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza after the temporary truce expired at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT). Two rockets were intercepted over the city of Ashkelon, while the others hit open areas, the military said.

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There was no immediate counter strike by the Israeli military and it was not immediately clear if the renewed fire from Gaza will derail indirect, Egyptian-brokered negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a long-term truce. Both sides are under intense international pressure to reach a deal.

As part of such an arrangement, Israel wants to see Hamas disarmed or prevented from re-arming, while Hamas demands Gaza’s borders be opened. No progress was reported in all-night talks that ended before dawn Friday.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said that while his group did not agree to an extension of the truce, it was willing to continue the talks.

Hamas, which has seen its popularity boosted for confronting Israel, entered the Cairo talks from a point of military weakness after losing hundreds of fighters, two-thirds of its rockets arsenal and all of its attack tunnels.

With no definitive statement that it would return to open war, the group appeared to be keeping its options open while several smaller Gaza militant organizations claimed responsibility for Friday’s rocket fire.

The Israeli delegation left Cairo on Friday morning, according to a Cairo airport official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev would not say whether Israel is interested in extending the cease-fire or if it will respond to the rockets.

Regev blamed Gaza militants for breaking the cease-fire.

‘‘The cease-fire is over,’’ Regev said. ‘‘They did that.’’

The three-day truce came after a month of Israel-Hamas fighting, the third cross-border confrontation in just over five years.

Since July 8, Israeli strikes on Gaza killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians, wounded more than 9,000, devastated large areas along Gaza’s border with Israel and displaced tens of thousands of people. Sixty-seven people, all but three soldiers, were killed on the Israeli side, and Gaza militants fired thousands of rockets at Israel over the past month.

Israel said it was going after Hamas targets, including rocket launching sites and military tunnels, and carried out close to 5,000 strikes.

The U.N. said most of those killed in Gaza were civilians and that in dozens of cases, strikes hit family homes, killing multiple members of the same family at once. The Israeli military said initial estimates show at least 40 percent of those killed were fighters.

Previous rounds of Israel-Hamas fighting ended inconclusively, setting the stage for the next confrontation because underlying problems were not resolved, particularly the stifling border closure of Gaza.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, and have since enforced it to varying degrees.

The closure led to widespread hardship in the Mediterranean seaside territory, home to 1.8 million people. Movement in and out of Gaza is limited, the economy has ground to a standstill and unemployment is over 50 percent.

Israel argues that it needs to keep Gaza’s borders under a blockade as long as Hamas tries to smuggle weapons into Gaza or manufactures them there.

Hamas, in turn, has rejected Israel’s demands that it disarm.

Hamas has said it is willing to hand over some power in Gaza to enable its long-time rival, Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to lead Gaza reconstruction efforts, but that it would not give up its arsenal and control over thousands of armed men.

The Gaza war grew out of the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of the group’s members in the West Bank, as Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.

On July 8, Israel launched an air campaign on the coastal territory, and nine days later, sent in ground troops to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.

Shortly before the truce expired Friday, Israel’s international airport halted all incoming and outgoing flights for 30 minutes, apparently as a precautionary measure.

Airports authority spokeswoman Liza Dvir said after the half hour, operations resumed as normal. There was no further comment on the measure.

Last month, the Federal Aviation Authority canceled U.S. airline carriers’ flights to Israel for 36 hours because a rocket had landed near the Tel Aviv airport.

Daraghmeh reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Daniel Estrin contributed to this report from Jerusalem.
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