Gaza Armed Factions on Alert as Truce Expires

Armed Islamist factions in Gaza put their men on alert on Friday after ending a 6-month truce with Israel and warned the Jewish state not to attack. But apart from the rhetoric, calm prevailed.

Masked Palestinians conducted exercises in front of television cameras in the hours immediately after the Islamist Hamas group, which controls the coastal strip, unilaterally brought an end to the ceasefire.

Egypt, which brokered the truce in June, said it had not been asked to intercede in a bid to repair it. But Russia later on Friday urged Hamas to reinstate the agreement.

"We think it is necessary that Hamas review its earlier announced decision on ending the ceasefire," Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said in a statement. Moscow viewed the move with "great concern" and warned that it could end in disastrous humanitarian consequences for Gaza inhabitants.
 
Blaming Hamas

Civilians on both sides seemed to shrug off the end of the ceasefire, which many in Gaza feel never delivered the expected easing of the Israeli blockade, and many in Israel feel never delivered the expected security from Palestinian attacks.

The truce has in fact been eroded almost daily since early November by Israeli raids against Islamist militants and showers of largely ineffective rockets fired into Israel from Gaza.

Egypt’s foreign ministry on Friday pinned the blame on Israel for the situation in Gaza as its Islamist Hamas rulers said a Cairo-mediated truce in and around the territory had come to an end.

"The legal status of the Gaza Strip defines it as Palestinian territory that is still under Israeli occupation," the ministry said.

"Israel still controls the airspace and waters of the Gaza Strip, as well as most of its borders and access to the territory," it said in a statement.

"Under international law and the 4th Geneva Convention in particular, as the occupying power, Israel must ensure the basic needs of the inhabitants of the territory it occupies are met, such as electricity, water, fuel, food and medicine."

Rocket Fire

Meanwhile, the Israeli military claimed that two rockets were fired Friday morning into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, raising the prospect of fresh cross-border fighting.

The rockets caused no injuries or material damage, said a military spokeswoman.

The armed wing of Hamas, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said Friday shortly after 6:00 a.m. (0400 GMT) that the ceasefire with Israel was officially over.

"The ceasefire is over and there won’t be a renewal because the Zionist enemy has not respected its conditions," the group said on its website, blaming Israel for violating the ceasefire and warning it would respond to any attacks.

A Hamas official said the ceasefire would not be renewed "because the enemy did not abide by its obligations" to ease a crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip and halt all attacks.

Tensions along the Israeli-Gaza border have been escalating since early last month after the Israeli army violated the ceasefire and conducted a deadly raid inside, triggering a response by Hamas.

Both Hamas and Israel have said they would respond when attacked, but neither has yet said it will go on the offensive.

(Agencies via Alarabiya.net)

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