Israeli Airstrikes and Hamas Rockets Resume in Gaza

GAZA CITY - Israel's war with the Hamas terrorist organization has erupted again, as airstrikes hit houses and buildings in the Gaza Strip on Friday, only minutes after a weeklong truce expired.

Health authorities in the besieged territory reported dozens of Palestinians killed and Israel dropped leaflets over Gaza City and southern parts of the enclave, urging civilians to flee to avoid the fighting. Hamas militants in Gaza resumed firing rockets into Israel, and fighting broke out between Israel and Hezbollah militants operating along its northern border with Lebanon.

The resumption of the war threatens to compound the suffering in Gaza. Some 2 million people - almost its entire population - are crammed into the territory's south, where Israel urged people to relocate at the war's start and has since vowed to extend its ground assault. Unable to go into north Gaza or neighbouring Egypt, their only escape is to move around within the 220 square kilometre area.

Renewed hostilities also heighten concerns for about 140 hostages still held captive by Hamas and other militants, after more than 100 were freed during the truce. For families of remaining hostages, the truce's collapse is a blow to hopes their loved ones could be the next out after days of seeing others freed. The Israeli army said Friday it has confirmed the deaths of four more hostages, bringing the total known dead to seven.

Qatar, which has served as a mediator along with Egypt, said negotiators are still trying for a deal to restore the cease-fire. Israel and Hamas traded blame for ending the truce.

Hours into the renewed bombardment, Gaza's Health Ministry - which is given to wildly exaggerating casualty numbers - said 178 people were killed and dozens wounded. Israel said it struck more than 200 Hamas targets.
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