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Israel resumes attack on Gaza after rocket fire, heavy fighting reported

Israel resumes attack on Gaza after rocket fire, heavy fighting reported

Israel resumed combat operations against Hamas in Gaza on Friday after accusing the Palestinian militant group of firing rockets and rejecting a deal to release all women held hostage, violating their temporary ceasefire agreement.

The seven-day pause, which began on November 24 and was extended twice, had allowed dozens of hostages held in Gaza to be exchanged for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and eased the flow of humanitarian aid into the fractured coastal strip.

An hour before the ceasefire was due to end at 7am (0500 GMT), Israel said it had intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas or claim of responsibility for the launch.

"With the resumption of fighting we emphasize that the Israeli Government is committed to achieving the goals of the war - to free our hostages, eliminate Hamas and ensure that Gaza will never again pose a threat to the people of Israel," he said. in a statement Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Hamas was also defiant.

"What Israel did not achieve during the fifty days before the ceasefire, it will not achieve by continuing its aggression after the ceasefire," Ezzat El Rashq, a member of Hamas' political bureau, said on the group's website.

Palestinian media and Gaza's interior ministry reported Israeli air and artillery strikes across the enclave after the ceasefire expired, including in Rafah, near the border with Egypt.

In Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, a Reuters witness said he could hear heavy shelling and see smoke rising east of the city. People were fleeing the area to camps west of Khan Younis for protection, he added.

Al-Jazeera reported that a number of people had been killed and injured by Israeli attacks and shelling.

The Israeli military confirmed that its planes were attacking Hamas targets in Gaza.

Images on social media showed huge plumes of dark smoke rising over the densely built-up Jabalia camp in Gaza.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, which rules Gaza, in response to the militant group's Oct. 7 rampage, when Israel says gunmen killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages.

Israel responded with intense bombing and a ground invasion. Palestinian health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations say more than 15,000 Gazans have been confirmed killed.

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