Senior Israeli officials deny existence of ceasefire with Hamas

Diplomatic, defense sources tell Israeli TV terror group’s announcement of an agreement to halt hostilities was a lie, as Gaza rallies spark fresh violence on border

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers in defensive positions on an embankment near the Gaza border during a violent Palestinian protest, July 27, 2018 (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers in defensive positions on an embankment near the Gaza border during a violent Palestinian protest, July 27, 2018 (Israel Defense Forces)

A senior diplomatic official told Israeli television Friday that Hamas’s announcement of a ceasefire with Israel following a major flareup between the sides was a lie.

Speaking with Hadashot TV news, the unnamed Israeli official insisted Israel never agreed to a ceasefire, which Hamas announced late Thursday and said went into effect at midnight. Hamas claimed the deal was mediated by Egypt and other regional players.

A defense official also denied to the network the existence of any ceasefire deal and said that Israel does not view the latest conflict with Hamas as over.

The implication was that Israel had ceased its attacks in the Strip because Hamas had halted rocket attacks on Israeli communities, but did not see itself obligated to a truce.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot during clashes along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, on August 10, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

On Friday, Israeli tanks shelled two Hamas observation posts in Gaza in response to riots on the border, during which a grenade, bombs and Molotov cocktails were hurled at soldiers, and attempts were made to breach the security fence. Hamas had called for mass attendance at the protests.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry reported that two Palestinians were killed in the riots. It said over 300 people were hurt, of which dozens were shot by Israeli troops.

Over Wednesday and Thursday, some 180 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel.

The projectiles injured at least seven people and caused damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure throughout the region, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

In response, the Israeli Air Force struck over 150 Hamas sites in the Strip, the army said. Palestinian officials said a pregnant woman and her infant daughter were killed in the Israeli strikes, along with one Hamas fighter, who was reportedly in a car used by a rocket-launching Hamas cell that was targeted by an IDF aircraft. The IDF said it only targeted military sites.

On Thursday evening, the Israeli Air Force flattened a five-story building in northern Gaza that served as a headquarters for Hamas’s internal security service, the army said.

The IDF said the strike on the building in the northern Gaza Strip, which also served as a cultural center in the coastal enclave, was in response to “rocket fire by the Hamas terror group against the city of Beersheba earlier in the day.”

Hamas announced the ceasefire hours after the bombing of the building in Gaza. The border remained quiet until the Friday evening riots.

The reported ceasefire on Thursday came just an hour after the security cabinet completed a four-hour meeting on Gaza, instructing the military to “continue acting forcefully” against terror groups in the Strip.

A picture taken on August 8, 2018 shows an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

On Friday morning, the IDF Home Front Command announced that all security restrictions in southern Israel had been lifted.

Residents of southern Israel for several months have been rattled by a series of one or two-day rounds of fighting between Hamas and Israel, sending them scrambling to their bomb shelters and raising fears of war. In all cases, violence later subsided under ceasefires negotiated by Egypt and the UN, before resuming weeks later.

Hours after fighting grounded to a halt, local officials called on the government to secure a permanent end to rocket fire from the Palestinian coastal enclave, whether by military or diplomatic means.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

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