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Israel Strikes Gaza Amid Rocket Fire With No Sign of Truce

Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Gaza militants renewed rocket fire into Israel early today and the Israeli military said it struck targets in the strip of territory from the air, with no sign the two sides are near to reinstating a cease-fire a day after it collapsed.

After a lull of several hours, four missiles fired by Palestinian groups hit open areas in Israel, an army spokeswoman said, commenting anonymously according to regulations. Israel carried out about 30 strikes overnight and this morning, she said. A three-day truce ended yesterday amid a barrage of rockets from Gaza, controlled by the Hamas Islamist movement, and raids by Israeli warplanes.

“We will continue to strike Hamas, its infrastructure, its operatives and restore security,” Army spokesman Lieutenant- Colonel Peter Lerner said. The Health Ministry in Gaza said five people were killed by yesterday’s Israeli airstrikes, including a 10-year-old boy, while militants’ rockets wounded an Israeli soldier and a civilian.

Hamas said the truce wasn’t extended because Israel hadn’t responded to Palestinian demands during mediated talks in Cairo, though the Islamist group denied it was responsible for yesterday’s rocket attacks. Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, two other militant movements that operate from Gaza, said they fired missiles at Israel.

Cairo Talks

Fighting over more than four weeks has killed about 1,900 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, the majority of them civilians. Israel says militants account for between 750 and 1,000 of the Palestinian dead. Sixty-seven people have died on the Israeli side, all but three of them soldiers. Talks in Cairo have sought a lasting cease-fire accord that accommodates Hamas’s demand for an end to economic curbs on Gaza and Israel’s desire to end attacks from the territory.

Along with the U.S. and European Union, Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization. It holds the group responsible for controlling the other militants in Gaza.

Israel withdrew troops from Gaza on Aug. 5 following a four-week offensive that it said aimed to end the rocket fire and destroy tunnels militants used to stage cross-border attacks. Soldiers haven’t been sent back into Gaza, an army spokeswoman said yesterday.

Homes Destroyed

Gazans had begun to head home during the truce, often to find their houses destroyed. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said the number of displaced people in its 89 shelters fell from a peak of almost 273,000 to 171,240 as of yesterday. Israel’s artillery and air strikes razed more than 10,000 Palestinian homes and damaged hospitals, UN shelters housing the displaced, and power and water infrastructure.

The resumption of fighting came after last-ditch negotiations in Cairo, mediated by Egypt, failed to secure agreement to prolong the truce or narrow differences that have hindered a permanent accord. Channel 2 reported yesterday that the Israeli delegation had returned from Cairo.

Egypt’s foreign ministry called on all sides to reaffirm their commitment to talks to enable progress on the “very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time” in a statement carried by the state-run Middle East News Agency.

The past month’s fighting followed the breakdown of U.S.- brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in April. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded by ending his seven-year rift with Hamas, a move condemned by Israel.

UN Condemnation

The killing of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, which Israeli blamed on Hamas militants, and the suspected revenge murder of a Palestinian youth added to tensions, and weeks of rocket fire and Israeli air strikes escalated into war. Hamas and other Islamists have fired thousands of rockets into Israel since early July.

Fending off condemnation from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon and other world leaders about Israel’s use of military might in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel used appropriate force given the rocket and tunnel attacks. Israel accuses Hamas fighters of using Gazans as human shields, striking from densely inhabited neighborhoods.

Clashes also broke out yesterday in the West Bank, governed by Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. One Palestinian was killed as soldiers opened fire on a crowd of people throwing stones as they approached an Israeli settlement, Israel’s army said.

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