The Israeli and Palestinian delegations, at Egypt's urging, agreed to a new five-day cease-fire in Gaza so that they can continue negotiating a permanent truce, but Palestinian militants launched more rockets at Israel prompting the Israelis to resume bombarding the coastal strip.
The cease-fire was originally reported to be for only 72 hours, but the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, Azzam El Ahmad, amended that in a speech from Cairo broadcast by local television in Gaza on Wednesday evening.
The new cease-fire took effect at midnight on Thursday, local time, immediately after the old cease-fire expired.
According to reports from Cairo, Israel had announced its readiness to extend the earlier cease-fire but it was not known until the last minute whether Hamas would agree. The two parties have been involved in another round of bitter and bloody warfare in Gaza since July 8.
An official with the Palestinian negotiating team told Efe that the two sides, despite the fact that they are not engaging in face-to-face talks in Cairo but rather are speaking through mediators, had been able to resolve several points, but some of the matters under discussion will require more time before their respective stances can be reconciled.
Two hours before the earlier cease-fire was due to end, however, air raid sirens sounded once again in Israel after several rockets were launched from Gaza by Palestinian militants.
The Israelis reported that two rockets had fallen in the vicinity of Ashkelon, a town near the Gaza Strip, a couple of hours before midnight but Hamas quickly said that it had not launched the missiles.
Later, in a brief communique, the Israeli armed forces said that two more rockets launched from Gaza had fallen in the area of Eshkol, while one of three others was intercepted by the country's Iron Dome air defense system over Netivot, and another hit in Sdot Negev. There have been no reports of Israeli casualties so far.
According to Israeli radio, in the face of the renewed Palestinian rocket fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the army to resume its attacks on the Gaza Strip.
The spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry, Ashraf Al Qedra, meanwhile, said that so far no casualties had been reported from the latest Israeli bombardments in both the southern and northern portions of the densely populated coastal strip.
The current round of conflict in the region has been under way since July 8 with thousands of casualties on the Palestinian side and at least 64 Israeli soldiers killed. EFE