CAIRO (AP) — A senior Hamas official said the group has decided not to extend a 72-hour cease-fire with Israel that expires on Friday morning. Before the end of truce, Gaza militants fired two rockets at Israel, the army said.
Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect talks in Cairo on new, border arrangements for the blockaded coastal territory. Israel has said it is willing to consider easing border restrictions, but demands that Hamas disarm. The talks began during a three-day truce that is to end at 0800 (0500 GMT) Friday.
The Hamas official told The Associated Press that the group decided not to extend the cease-fire.
He said Hamas representatives were told by Egyptian mediators that Israel had rejected Hamas’ conditions for an extension – an agreement in principle to open Gaza’s borders and allow for a rebuilding of the strip. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was en route to informing Egyptian officials of the decision.
The Israeli military reported early Friday that two rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel, falling in an open field and causing no casualties. Israeli media said mortar rounds, not rockets had been fired.
No one claimed responsibility for the fire from Gaza. There are a number of militant groups in the crowded territory that operate outside the control of Hamas with rockets of their own.
A collapse of the truce could unleash a new round of violence after a month of fighting that has claimed nearly 1,900 Palestinian lives, with 67 deaths on the Israeli side.
In Cairo, the gaps between Israel and Hamas were wide, and it was likely from the start that an extension of the truce would be needed. Hamas has said it will not even contemplate Israel’s demand that it disarm. Israel has said it will not lift the blockade of Gaza without a demilitarization of Gaza.
The blockade has been enforced by Israel and Egypt to varying degrees since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007.
The blockade, which Israel says is needed to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza, has led to widespread hardship in the Mediterranean seaside territory. Movement in and out of Gaza is limited, and the economy has ground to a standstill and unemployment is over 50 percent.
The war grew out of the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of the group’s members in the West Bank, as Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.
On July 8, Israel launched an air campaign on the coastal territory, and nine days later, sent in ground troops to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.