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Israel resumes airstrikes after it says Hamas violated truce

Workers rush the injured to  Mohammed Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah as Israel resumed its bombing Friday morning in the Gaza Strip.
Anas Baba/NPR
Workers rush the injured to Mohammed Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah as Israel resumed its bombing Friday morning in the Gaza Strip.

Updated December 1, 2023 at 1:46 PM ET

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel's warplanes began pounding targets in Gaza early Friday, shortly after the collapse of a cease-fire deal that had allowed the release of more than 100 hostages seized by Hamas militants and nearly 250 Palestinians from Israeli jails.

By mid-afternoon, Israel had already launched more than 200 airstrikes across the territory, the Israeli military said, including in Rafah and Khan Younis, the south's two largest cities where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the north have sought shelter.

Health officials in Gaza reported 178 deaths and nearly 600 injuries in the renewed bombardment Friday.

Airstrikes in Rafah, near the Egyptian border, began just after 7 a.m. local time. One struck an apartment building near an open market.

Five-year-old Joury Miqdad, who woke up in the morning and went to play with her cousin, was killed in the Rafah strike, the girl's father, Ramadan Miqdad, told NPR. Her cousin was injured. Joury's mother, Fadwa Miqdad, cried aloud for her daughter.

"My beloved, it was going to be your birthday, I was going to make a cake for you," she said.

As Hamas and Israel trade blame, talks continue on new deal

The end of the truce and the resumption of fighting came hours after a seventh hostages-for-prisoners exchange between the two sides, and just as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was leaving Israel after high-level meetings, including with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Blinken had pressed Israel to further extend the temporary truce.

Israel's military said it was restarting combat operations because Hamas "violated the operational pause ... and fired toward Israeli territory." Netanyahu's office added that Hamas "did not live up to its duty to release all the kidnapped women today, and launched rockets at the citizens of Israel."

"With the return to fighting we will emphasize: the Israeli government is committed to achieving the goals of the war — to release our hostages, eliminate Hamas and ensure that Gaza will never again pose a threat to the residents of Israel," the prime minister's office said.

Later in the day, in a post on X (formerly Twitter), Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said he'd flown over Gaza in a helicopter and "watched the wave of attacks by the Air Force up close," adding that "the results are impressive."

This picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip shows a rocket being fired from inside the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as battles resumed between the Israeli forces and Hamas militants, on December 1, 2023.
Jack Guez / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
This picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip shows a rocket being fired from inside the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as battles resumed between the Israeli forces and Hamas militants, on Friday.

Hamas in a statement issued Friday afternoon local time said Israel "bears full responsibility" for the breakdown of the cease-fire. In all-night negotiations, the Islamist militant group said it "offered to exchange prisoners and the elderly (and) ... offered to hand over the bodies of those killed and detained as a result of the Israeli bombing."

Hamas referred by name to one family of captives. Earlier, Hamas had said Shiri Bibas and her two children, Ariel and Kfir, were killed in an Israeli airstrike. Israel has said it is assessing whether or not they are dead. Videos from Oct. 7 showed the family, including father Yarden, was alive when they were taken into Gaza.

In its statement, Hamas said it had "also offered to hand over the bodies of the Bibas family and release their father, so that he could [participate] in their burial ceremonies," in addition to handing over two other Israeli captives. It said Israel had "refused to deal with all these offers."

Hamas also said the Biden administration bears "full responsibility for the continuation of Zionist war crimes in the Gaza Strip, after its absolute support for it," and after what it said was Blinken's "green light" for Israel to resume the war.

Blinken, speaking on a stop in Dubai, said in his discussions in Israel, he'd focused on trying to secure the release of hostages, increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza, and discussing how Israel can make sure Hamas "never again has the ability to do what it did on October 7th."

Blinken said the pause came to an end because "Hamas reneged on commitments it made." Referring to an attack at a bus stop outside Jerusalem on Thursday, Blinken called it "an atrocious terrorist attack" that killed three people, and wounded others, including Americans. He also said Hamas "began firing rockets before the pause had ended" and "reneged on commitments it made in terms of releasing certain hostages."

Earlier on Friday, a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Qatar, where the temporary cease-fire was negotiated, said the Gulf state was "deeply saddened" by the collapse of the deal, but confirmed that talks were ongoing "with the aim of a return to a pause."

Qatar said Israel's renewed strikes on Gaza "complicates mediation efforts and exacerbates the humanitarian catastrophe in the Strip."

The temporary cease-fire, which began a week ago, came after weeks of heavy bombardment by Israeli air and ground forces in response to an Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people, Israel says. Some 240 hostages, including Israelis and a number of foreign workers, were also seized from communities bordering Gaza.

Palestinians inspect the destruction following an Israeli air strike on the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on December 1, 2023.
Mohammed Abed / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Palestinians inspect the destruction following an Israeli airstrike on the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday.

Israel renews calls for civilians in Gaza to move south

After hostilities resumed, Israel's military issued a warning to Palestinians in Gaza that "Hamas uses the residents of the Gaza Strip as human shields, placing its command and military infrastructure in residential areas, hospitals, mosques, and schools."

"Hamas turns civilian sites into military targets while using civilians and civilian facilities as a human shield," the military said, issuing what it said was an interactive evacuation map for residents that it says shows safe evacuation areas. However, many Gaza residents have been without electricity or an internet connection for weeks and the map is difficult to navigate on a cell phone.

Israeli planes dropped leaflets over Khan Younis, warning that the city is a dangerous combat zone. It said residents should move to Rafah, about 6 miles to the south.

During the week-long pause in fighting, Hamas and other militants in Gaza released more than 100 hostages, most of them Israelis, in return for 240 Palestinians freed from prisons in Israel.

As fighting restarts, officials continue working on new deal

At Mohammed Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, Palestinians mourned children and relatives from four different families killed in Rafah as Israel resumed its bombing campaign Friday morning in the Gaza Strip.
Anas Baba / NPR
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NPR
At Mohammed Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, Palestinians mourned children and relatives from four different families killed in Rafah as Israel resumed its bombing campaign Friday morning in the Gaza Strip.

The truce also allowed desperately needed humanitarian aid to reach besieged Gaza, whose 2.2 million people had been under weeks of bombardment from Israeli airstrikes and a ground campaign that has killed at least 13,300 people, according to Gaza's health ministry.

Expressing "deep regret" that military operations had restarted in Gaza, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in a post on X that he still hopes "that it will be possible to renew the pause that was established. The return to hostilities only shows how important it is to have a true humanitarian ceasefire."

The original four-day cease-fire deal that began a week ago was twice extended for a total of three days to allow for the exchange of more captives. Israel had agreed to prolong the truce if Hamas turned over an additional 10 hostages per day in exchange for 30 Palestinians. But on Thursday, in the final exchange under the extension, Hamas released only eight captives.

Families of captives on both sides hold on to to hope

As Israelis woke up to the news that the war was back on, hundreds of people gathered in a square in central Tel Aviv where the families of hostages and their supporters have kept vigil since the crisis began.

Some families of Israeli hostages still held by Hamas voiced sorrow on Friday at the resumption of fighting.

"I feel very bad about the whole issue," said Yoav Shelhav, from the Nahal Oz kibbutz, where two residents were abducted in the Hamas attack eight weeks ago. Two men from the kibbutz, Omri Miran and Tzahi Idan, remain in captivity. Shelhav said Idan is a distant cousin of his.

"I think our main concern should be getting back not just these two guys, but everyone." he said. "I think this should be the first priority. The issue with Hamas is important, it should be resolved, but it can be second priority."

Shelhav said he remains hopeful more hostages will eventually be freed: "I have no actual idea of them, if they are still alive or not, but I have hope."

Nihal Deeba lives in East Jerusalem, part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. One of her two sons, 17-year-old Malik, was released from an Israeli jail as part of the truce, but another, 20-year-old Arafat, is still behind bars. Both were accused of stone-throwing, which they deny.

"We are all upset, for our people and for the situation we are in," she said. "I just pray to God that he has mercy on the people in Gaza, and protects them, and that things go back to being peaceful.

"We have hope that there will be another truce, that all the prisoners will be released, and that things calm down."

Deeba said that she had really been hoping her older son, Arafat, would be released as well.

"I still have that hope," she said. "I pray that all the prisoners are freed, and that the prisons are emptied."

Scott Neuman, Brian Mann and Daniel Estrin reported from Tel Aviv. Becky Sullivan reported from Washington, D.C. Anas Baba contributed reporting from Rafah, the Gaza Strip, and Fatima Al-Kassab contributed reporting from London. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.