Middle East

Gaza crisis: New exchanges of fire after truce ends

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Media caption"Here, on the ground, there's no sign that this war is about to end", reports Lyse Doucet in Gaza

Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket fire have resumed after a temporary truce in Gaza ended.

Gaza officials said three children were killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. Israel said dozens of rockets had been fired by militants.

The five-hour truce had been called to help Gazans stock up on supplies.

Both Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza, denied earlier reports a longer-term truce had been agreed but talks are continuing in Egypt.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is to travel to Egypt and Israel on Friday to try to help with the negotiations, President Francois Hollande said.

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Media captionEgyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry says efforts will continue to try to broker a ceasefire

Some 230 Palestinians and one Israeli have died in the nine days since Israel launched its Operation Protective Edge.

It says its aim is to halt Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.

'Iron fist'

The humanitarian truce took place between 10:00 and 15:00 local time on Thursday.

It was requested by the UN and other international organisations to provide emergency relief and distribute water, food and hygiene kits.

Analysis: BBC's Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem

In an off-the-record briefing in some of Thursday morning's overseas newspapers a senior Israeli military official is quoted as describing the likelihood of an Israeli ground operation in Gaza as "very high". The military logic is clear, as it always has been.

Israel's air force is steadily working its way down a long target list. But there are other targets that could only be reached by ground forces - better-concealed long-range rockets are one example.

Ground operations could mean anything from raids by units of Israel's Special Forces to an all-out invasion and occupation. That would mean Israeli casualties too - perhaps a lot of them - and give Israel responsibility for running Gaza even as it hunted and fought militants.

Lots of Israeli politicians want the army to go in, but so far PM Benjamin Netanyahu is hesitating. In the meantime, leaks suggesting a ground operation is "highly likely" are a psychological weapon in themselves.

Gazans used the truce to stock up on supplies. They queued outside banks and there were traffic jams.

Both sides reported violations of the temporary truce.

A few minutes after it ended, the Israel Defense Forces said a rocket fired from Gaza had hit the town of Ashkelon.

It was followed by regular reports of further rocket attacks, some of the missiles being brought down by the Iron Dome defence system.

Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Ashkelon were said to have been targeted but there were no reports of casualties.

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Image caption Israeli air strikes on Gaza resume on Thursday afternoon
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Multiple rockets are launched towards Israel after the temporary truce ends
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Israeli troops are massed on the Gaza border amid speculation of a ground offensive

Witnesses in Gaza said Israel's first air strike after the temporary truce ended was on agricultural land near Beit Lahiya.

Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said time was running out for Hamas.

"We are moving from Iron Dome to an iron fist," he said.

The health ministry in Gaza later said an Israeli air strike had hit a home in the Sabra area of Gaza City, killing three children - aged between seven and 10 - from the same family.

There was an unconfirmed report that another child had been killed in an air strike on Khan Younis.

Israeli President Shimon Peres had earlier apologised for the deaths of four other Palestinian children who were hit on a beach near Gaza City on Wednesday.

New truce 'incorrect'

Earlier reports from the Egyptian capital, Cairo, suggested a new longer-term ceasefire had been agreed, starting at 06:00 local time (03:00 GMT).

Egypt has been mediating in negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

However, Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israeli media: "The reports of a ceasefire are far from representing reality. I spoke with the prime minister, and as of now they are incorrect."

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Media captionAre Israeli strike warnings effective? The BBC examines footage from both sides

Hamas spokesman in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri told Agence France-Presse: "The news about a ceasefire is incorrect. There are continuing efforts but no agreement until now."

Israel says it has carried out more than 1,960 attacks on Gaza since 8 July, while militants have fired some 1,380 rockets at Israel.

The Israeli military has mobilised tens of thousands of troops on the border with Gaza amid speculation that a ground invasion could be launched.

The UN says at least 1,370 homes have been destroyed in Gaza and more than 18,000 people displaced in recent hostilities.

It says most of those killed in Gaza have been civilians.

Israel accuses Hamas of hiding its military infrastructure within the civilian population.

On Thursday, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees said it had found 20 rockets hidden in one of its vacant schools in Gaza and "strongly condemned" whichever group had placed them there.

Also on Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a bitter attack on Israel, accusing it of "systematic genocide" of Palestinians.

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