Israel and Hamas both said they agreed to a five-day cease-fire extension on Wednesday, but hours later both had accused the other side of violating the truce by Thursday morning local time. Israel Defense Forces said that at least four rockets had been launched into Israel about two hours before the end of the original 72-hour cease-fire, just as reports came in detailing massive explosions in Gaza.
Israel ordered the IDF to resume attacks and said war planes struck “terror” sites in Gaza after the rockets were fired into Israel. But a Hamas spokesperson denied firing the original rockets, according to Reuters. "There is no violation of the calm from any Palestinian side and nobody in Gaza has heard rocket fire," Izzat Reshiq, a Hamas official who was part of the Cairo delegation told the Jerusalem Post.
Hamas said Israel used the cease-fire as a stalling tactic while it continued to deny the group’s demands, including an end to the seven-year blockade on the Gaza Strip. The IDF had already called up additional reserve forces and stationed them along the border early on Wednesday in anticipation of renewed rocket fire.
Despite the renewed fighting, members of the Palestinian delegation in Cairo said the latest set of truce talks had made progress. The Palestinian delegation is set to return to Cairo on Saturday for further negotiations.
"I say yes, there was progress and agreement on many of the sticking points," Azzam Ahmed, a senior official with Fatah, the West Bank’s ruling party, said in a press conference on Wednesday. "We hope that when we return in five days, this will be the final period to announce an agreement ... for a permanent ceasefire that ends the aggression against Gaza."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday of ignoring other conflicts in the region and focusing solely on Israel.
“The U.N. Human Rights Council gives legitimacy to murderous terror organizations like Hamas and the Islamic State,” he said. “Instead of checking Hamas’ attacks on Israeli civilians and the use it makes of Gaza's residents as human shields, instead of checking the massacre carried out by [President] Assad in Syria, or the massacre of Kurds by Islamic State members, the U.N. has decided to come and check Israel -- the only democracy in the Middle East, a democracy that is acting in a legitimate manner to protect its citizens from murderous terror.”
Meanwhile, six people were killed in Gaza after an ordnance explosion on Wednesday, including an Italian journalist and Palestinian translator for the Associated Press. Gaza security forces were trying to neutralize a bomb left over from fighting in Beit Lahiya.
The five-week conflict has left 1,945 Palestinians and more than 67 Israeli soldiers dead.