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Israeli jets pound targets in Gaza as hostilities escalate

The IAF struck multiple targets on Saturday, including a rocket launching pad situated by a mosque.

Israel renewed strikes on Gaza soon after the ceasefire lapsed, saying it was in response to rocket fire by Hamas, which controls Gaza. (Source: AP) Israel renewed strikes on Gaza soon after the ceasefire lapsed, saying it was in response to rocket fire by Hamas, which controls Gaza. (Source: AP)

Israeli jets on Saturday pounded over 30 Hamas targets in Gaza, killing five Palestinians, as rocket fire into Israel continued with the month-long conflict that has claimed about 2,000 lives flaring up again after the end of a three-day truce.

The Israeli military said it struck 33 sites in Gaza early this morning, while five rockets hit southern Israel.

Five Palestinians were killed, including three whose bodies were pulled from the wreckage of a mosque, Gaza health officials said.

Over 1,960 people have died since violence erupted in Gaza in early July. More than 1,900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed. Sixty-seven people have died on the Israeli side, including three civilians.

Israel renewed strikes on Gaza soon after the ceasefire lapsed, saying it was in response to rocket fire by Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Residents of southern Israel awoke up early morning to the piercing sound of code red rocket alerts, as a barrage of rockets from Gaza targeted their neighborhoods.

Militants in the Strip renewed fire just before 7:00 am (local time) as sirens blared throughout communities in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council in the northwestern Negev, and in the Eshkol region, which borders Gaza.

Following through on his promise to respond with force against any renewed hostilities by Hamas, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered the Israli Air Force to strike targets in the Strip, as Operation Protective Edge entered its 33nd day –- the second day since a failure to extend an Egyptian-mediated truce.

The IAF struck multiple targets on Saturday, including a rocket launching pad situated by a mosque, an Islamic Jihad training base and a house used as a Hamas command center.

The US and UN have condemned the resumption of violence between Israel and Palestinian militant groups after the end of the temporary truce on Friday.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest has called on the parties to work towards a “sustainable ceasefire”.

“Hamas’ decision to resume rocket fire will not only put the people of Israel and of Gaza at greater risk, it will do nothing to meet the expectations of the Palestinian people,” Earnest said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the resumption of violence in the region, calling the deaths of civilians “intolerable”.

The violence resumed after Israeli and Palestinian representatives failed to agree a long-term truce at indirect talks in the Egyptian capital Cairo.

Egypt, which is mediating the talks between Israelis and Palestinians, insisted negotiations were making progress and urged a new truce yesterday but Israel recalled its delegation and warned it would not “negotiate under fire”.

The head of the Palestinian delegation in Cairo said they were committed to achieving a truce.

“We told the Egyptians (mediators) we are sitting here to achieve a final agreement that restores the rights” of Palestinians, Azzam al-Ahmed told reporters.

Hamas and the Islamic Jihad had rejected another 72-hour truce renewing rocket attacks on Israel yesterday, accusing Israel of stalling the talks by not agreeing to their demands.

“There had been an agreement on the vast majority of matters that are important to the Palestinian people, but some limited points remained undecided, a matter that should have led to an acceptance to renew the ceasefire,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said.

The major Palestinian factions have together demanded  that Israel end its eight-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, release dozens of prisoners who were recently re-arrested, re-open a seaport and airport in Gaza, and create a safe passage between the West Bank and the enclave.

Despite withdrawing all its troops from Gaza by the time the truce began on Tuesday, Israel has retained forces along the border, ready to respond to any resumption of fighting.

The US and UN have condemned the resumption of violence between Israel and Palestinian militant groups.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest has called on the parties to work towards a “sustainable ceasefire”.

“Hamas’ decision to resume rocket fire will not only put the people of Israel and of Gaza at greater risk, it will do nothing to meet the expectations of the Palestinian people,” Earnest said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the resumption of violence in the region, calling the deaths of civilians “intolerable”.

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