ISRAELI air strikes struck more than 20 targets yesterday in the Gaza Strip and killed a senior Hamas member, as militant rocket fire continued following the collapse of a three-day truce aimed at ending the war between Israel and Hamas.
Hamas officials said Israeli air strikes hit houses, mosques, its warehouses and training sites. Three bodies were found under the ruins of the al-Qassam mosque in Gaza, including that of senior Hamas official Moaaz Zaid, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.
The Israeli military said militants in Gaza fired five rockets yesterday towards Israel, making a total of 70 rockets fired since the truce expired. In response, Israel has targeted more than 30 sites in Gaza since Friday, it said.
The Islamist militants resumed their rocket attacks on Friday shortly before the 72-hour truce expired, injuring two Israelis and drawing a wave of retaliatory air strikes. The fighting shattered a brief calm in the month-long war and dealt a blow to Egyptian-led efforts to secure a long-term ceasefire between the bitter enemies.
More than 1,900 Gazans have been killed in the war, roughly three-quarters of them civilians, according to Palestinian and United Nations officials. Israel disputes that breakdown, saying more militants have been killed. Sixty-seven people have been killed on the Israeli side, all of them soldiers apart from three civilians killed in rocket attacks.
The war grew out of the killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of its members in the West Bank, as Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.
On 8 July, Israel launched an air campaign on the coastal territory, sending in ground troops nine days later to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel. Gaza militants have fired more than 3,000 rockets into Israel. Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, rejected several ceasefire offers throughout the fighting. Its primary demand is the lifting of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after they seized power. Militants had warned they would resume fighting after the ceasefire expired unless there was a deal to ease the restrictions.
The blockade, which Israel says prevents weapons reaching Gaza, has led to widespread hardship. Movement in and out of Gaza is limited, and the economy has ground to a standstill. Unemployment is at more than 50 per cent.
Israel has said that the militants must disarm first – a demand dismissed by Hamas.