Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad (L) and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The White House on Friday urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks and do what they can to protect civilians after Egyptian-mediated negotiations failed to extend a ceasefire and rocket fire resumed.
"The United States is very concerned about today's developments in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
"We condemn the renewed rocket fire and we are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides of that conflict," he said.
Palestinians continued firing rockets into Israel
and the IDF resumed targeting Hamas and other terrorist sites in the Gaza Strip
as a cease-fire in the south remained elusive on Friday.
Israeli officials in Jerusalem rejected Palestinian media reports on Friday that Gaza factions will hold their fire beginning at 8:00 p.m. local time.
According to the Ma'an news agency, the Palestinians in Gaza will observe a unilateral cease-fire, with Hamas even indicating a willingness to agree to another 72-hour truce.
News reports indicate that Egyptian officials and international diplomats are exerting pressure on Hamas to agree to the extension of the cease-fire.
Earlier Friday, a Hamas spokesperson based in Qatar was quoted by Channel 2 as saying that "we are capable of continuing with a war of attrition, and Israel will not be able to deal with it."
Hamas officials are in Cairo to continue cease-fire discussions with Egyptian mediators. It is believed that Hamas is demanding a lifting of the siege as well as the right to build a seaport in the Gaza Strip.
"Our demands are not negotiable," the Hamas spokesperson, Hassam Badran, is quoted by Channel 2 as saying. "Israel tried and is trying to buy time and extend the cease-fire without giving us anything in return. We are ready to fight even during the discussions. We made it clear that we are opposed to an open, indefinite cease-fire and endless negotiations, which is what Israel wants."
Despite the resumption of rocket fire by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip on Friday, officials in Jerusalem told Channel 10 that Israel still prefers to refrain from ordering a wide-scale operation that would deal Hamas a crippling military blow.
Palestinians in Gaza launched over 50 rockets and mortars at the western Negev beginning early Friday morning, as the 72-hour cease-fire that many thought put an end to Operation Protective Edge expired.
In response to the rockets, the Israel Air Force has made do with pinpoint strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza. Israel Radio reported that five Palestinians were killed, including a 10-year-old boy, and over two dozen were wounded.
Palestinian factions will remain in Cairo and press on with Egyptian-mediated talks despite the end of the ceasefire in Gaza, the head of the delegation, Fatah official Azzam Ahmed, told Reuters on Friday.
"We are not for escalation. We are ready to continue through our Egyptian brothers in negotiating to reach a final agreement that would return the rights to their owners," Ahmed said. "I mean here lifting the blockade of Gaza."
Ahmed said Palestinian negotiators were due to meet Egyptian intelligence officials, who have been mediating the talks, later in the day. He said Palestinian factions were united in their decision not to extend the 72-hour truce that ended at 0500 GMT and had been clear about their basic demands to end the conflict.
Egypt called on Friday for an immediate resumption of the ceasefire in Gaza and a return to the negotiating table, saying that only a few outstanding issues remained in negotiations it was mediating between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The foreign ministry calls on all sides to rise to their responsibilities ... and to return immediately to the ceasefire commitment and exploit the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time," the foreign ministry said in a statement.