Israel begins intense bombardment of Gaza after truce expires
Israel began a widescale military campaign across Gaza on Friday morning, killing dozens of Palestinians, after a seven-day truce with Hamas expired without the extension negotiators were hoping to achieve.
Just minutes after the deadline of 7 am local time passed, Israeli fighter jets were in the sky beginning an aerial bombardment of several areas across the besieged enclave, from the north to the south.
So far, at least six Palestinians have been killed and several others have been injured, with the death toll likely to rise throughout Friday.
In a statement released by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office on Friday, the Israeli leader blamed Hamas for the end of the truce. The statement accused Hamas of failing to release additional captives being held in Gaza, and also of firing a rocket towards Israel before 7 am.
Netanyahu's statement said that Israel will continue to work towards its wartime goal of eliminating Hamas.
"With the resumption of fighting we emphasise: The Israeli government is committed to achieving the goals of the war - to free our hostages, to eliminate Hamas, and to ensure that Gaza will never pose a threat to the residents of Israel," the statement said.
The truce, which began on 24 November, had been extended twice and saw the release of 240 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 105 captives held in Gaza.
Earlier on Friday, Israel released 30 prisoners from several Israeli prisons, in what was the last captive exchange that took place between Hamas and Israel before the expiration of the truce.
The truce also allowed humanitarian aid to enter Gaza after much of the enclave was reduced to rubble in Israel's assault.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said more than 56 trucks with humanitarian supplies entered Gaza on Thursday.
Still, aid deliveries remained far below what is needed for the population of 2.3 million people.
The end of the truce comes after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel and met with top Israeli officials and leaders.
While visiting, Blinken told Israel's wartime cabinet that the country did not have months to wage war against Hamas.
The US's top diplomat warned that domestic pressure is mounting for President Joe Biden to call for an end to the conflict, and that Israel would not have international backing to fight for a prolonged period.
He added that Israel would need to change its approach to how it fights in Gaza.
“I underscored the imperative - for the United States - that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale that we saw in northern Gaza, not be repeated in the South,” Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv.
Israel has repeatedly stated that it plans to continue the war in Gaza until it achieves its objectives, chiefly the elimination of Hamas.