ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Booms heard in Jerusalem as PIJ claims to target capital

US blames Hamas for end of truce, as rocket barrages fired at central Israel, south

IDF says it hit 200 targets across Gaza after rocket launches from Strip resume; Hezbollah also renews attacks, leading Israel to respond with airstrikes and artillery shelling

Rockets are fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, December 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Rockets are fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, December 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Biden administration on Friday blamed the end of the temporary ceasefire in the Gaza Strip on Hamas, as the Palestinian terror group bombarded central and southern Israel with rocket fire and the Israeli military carried out airstrikes in the coastal enclave.

Fighting also resumed Friday along the Israel-Lebanon border, with the Hezbollah terror organization renewing its attacks after pausing fire over the past week amid the truce in Gaza.

According to Israel, Hamas violated the truce by failing to provide a list of hostages it intended to release by 7 a.m. as stipulated in the agreement that had been in place since last week, and also launched rockets toward Israeli territory early on Friday morning.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed later Friday that the pause “came to an end because of Hamas,” which “began firing rockets before the pause ended, and … reneged on the commitments it made in terms of releasing certain hostages.”

Hamas expanded the range of fire throughout the day, launching salvos at towns near the border before targeting the southern coastal city of Ashdod. The military said roughly 50 rockets had been fired at southern Israeli towns from Gaza.

The Gaza-ruling terror group later claimed responsibility for a pair of rocket barrages fired at central Israel, which set off warning sirens in numerous cities. Several Iron Dome interceptions were spotted.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another Iran-backed terror group in Gaza, claimed Friday evening to fire rockets at Jerusalem and other cities in Israel, as southern communities continued to be targeted.

Islamic Jihad made the claim as incoming rocket sirens sounded in the community of Eliav in the Lachish region and the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, both of which are south of Jerusalem. Residents of Jerusalem reported hearing booms.

There were no injuries reported from the rockets, though the Israel Defense Forces said five soldiers were wounded as a result of a mortar strike near the southern community of Nirim Friday morning.

Three of the soldiers were listed in moderate condition, while the other two were lightly hurt. The IDF said their families were notified.

Footage of an IDF airstrike in Gaza on December 1, 2023. (Screen capture/X)

The IDF said that in response to Hamas’s violation of the ceasefire, it carried out airstrikes against over 200 targets across the Gaza Strip since 7 a.m.

According to the military, among the Hamas targets struck by fighter jets were command centers with operatives in them, underground sites, and a site used to launch anti-tank missiles at troops.

Several Hamas cells spotted by observation troops of the Gaza Division were also struck, the IDF said. Airstrikes were also carried out against two mortar-launching squads in Gaza, it added.

A number of the Israeli strikes throughout the day took place in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis and Rafah. Some of the strikes in northern Gaza were directed by forces of the 162nd, 36th, and 252nd divisions.

The IDF said ground troops, meanwhile, demolished structures that were booby-trapped with explosives, tunnel shafts, rocket launch sites and other infrastructure belonging to Hamas.

Navy missile boats, tanks and artillery also carried out strikes in Gaza.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi meets with the General Staff Forum at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, December 1, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

As the fighting resumed, the IDF said Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi met with the military’s top brass “ahead of the start of the second phase of the war,” with Israel expected to expand its ground operations into the southern part of Gaza.

Israel has vowed to topple Hamas after declaring war following the October 7 massacres, in which Palestinian terrorists stormed across the border from Gaza and slaughtered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 240 hostage.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant boards an Apache helicopter at the Tel Nof airbase, December 1, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant observed the Israeli Air Force’s wave of strikes in Gaza from a combat helicopter over the Strip, his office said.

In a video statement from the Tel Nof airbase after the flight, Gallant said “Hamas only understands force.”

“Last night… I approved the continuation of the IDF offensive. This morning, we all saw the meaning of the strikes. It was seen in Israel and by the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip,” Gallant said.

“I watched the attacks and saw their intensity from the cockpit of an Air Force combat helicopter over the Gaza Strip. As I said from the first day, I repeat now, Hamas only understands force,” he continued.

“We will continue to strike [Hamas] until we achieve the goals of the war: Dismantling Hamas, the elimination of its military capabilities and the return of the hostages to their homes. We will continue this mission until a successful ending, and victory over Hamas,” he added.

According to a statement, Gallant flew in a Boeing AH-64 Apache with the commander of the 190th Squadron, and spoke over the radio with the commander of the 551st Reserve Brigade, Lt. Col. Ido Kass, who is leading ground operations in the Beit Hanoun area.

Cross-border skirmishes in north

In northern Israel, several rockets were fired from Lebanon at army posts along the border near Rosh Hanikra and Maragaliot, and also at the city of Kiryat Shmona, as Hezbollah claimed responsibility for targeting IDF positions on the border after halting its attacks during the ceasefire in Gaza.

Two rockets fired at Kiryat Shmona were intercepted by the Iron Dome, said the IDF, adding that it responded with artillery shelling at the source of the fire.

There were no reports of injuries or damage as a result of the cross-border attacks.

The IDF said it struck a terror cell in southern Lebanon, close to the northern community of Zar’it, and carried out a strike with a fighter jet, combat helicopter and artillery against a Hezbollah site.

Separately, a Hezbollah cell preparing to carry out an attack near the northern community of Malkia was struck by an aircraft, the IDF added.

In addition to claiming several attacks on northern Israel today, Hezbollah announced the death of its fighter Mohammed Mazraani, who Lebanon’s state news agency said was killed alongside his mother Nasifa Mazraani. Lebanese security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said the two died when Israeli shells hit their home in the southern village of Houla.

Hezbollah later said in a separate statement that another of its members, Wajih Mshek, was killed in an Israeli strike.

Earlier Friday, the IDF said it intercepted a “suspicious aerial target” that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon.

Since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7, Lebanon’s southern border with Israel has witnessed deadly exchanges of fire, primarily involving the Israeli army and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, an Iranian proxy, as well as Palestinian terror groups.

‘Hamas reneged on its commitments’

Wrapping up a visit to Dubai a day after visiting Israel and the West Bank, US Secretary Blinken pinned the blame for the renewed fighting squarely on Hamas.

“It’s important to understand why the pause came to an end. It came to an end because of Hamas. Hamas reneged on commitments it had made,” Blinken told reporters before departing Dubai, where he was in town for the day to attend the COP28 climate conference.

“In fact, even before the pause came to an end, it committed an atrocious terrorist attack in Jerusalem, killing three people and wounding others, including Americans,” Blinken continued. “It began firing rockets before the pause ended, and as I said it reneged on the commitments it made in terms of releasing certain hostages.”

Blinken clarified that the US remained committed to getting all of the remaining hostages home and discussed the matter with foreign counterparts while visiting the United Arab Emirates.

“We remained intensely focused on getting everyone home, getting hostages back, something that I also worked on today,” said Blinken, who met with the top diplomats of the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Bahrain during his brief visit to Dubai, as well as a representative of the Palestinian Authority.

“We’re determined to do everything we can to get everyone reunited with their families, including pursuing the process that had worked for seven days,” Blinken added, saying the work was continuing “almost hour by hour.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media prior to departure from Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emorates, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

The American diplomat noted that in addition to discussing the current war, the US is also focused on planning for the day after.

“How are we thinking about what happens in Gaza itself? How is it governed? Where does the security come from? How do we begin to rebuild? And critically, how do we get on a path to a just and lasting peace. For us, that has to result in a state for the Palestinians,” Blinken said.

“A lot of it requires hard work, tough decisions, commitments that various countries will have to make,” he continued, apparently referencing the US expectation that Arab allies will have to help manage Gaza’s security for an interim period until the Palestinian Authority is ready to take over.

“We know from many years of experience that none of it will be easy, but I think it’s more imperative than ever,” Blinken said.

Reviewing his diplomacy since the start of the war, Blinken said one of the main goals of his first trip to the region last month was to coax Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, which it subsequently agreed to do.

The goal of the second trip was to advance a humanitarian pause, which would allow more hostages to come out and aid to go in, which was reached shortly after he left.

The goals of the third trip, which he is currently on, are to secure the release of additional hostages, facilitate the acceleration of more humanitarian aid and ensure that Israel takes actions to protect civilians, as it resumes its military operation, Blinken said.

While in Tel Aviv Thursday, Blinken said he told Israeli leaders that when the IDF resumes its military campaign, it must clearly designate multiple safe zones in northern and central Gaza for civilians to avoid the fighting; avoid further mass displacement of Palestinians; avoid the targeting of “life-critical infrastructure” such as hospitals, power stations and water treatment plants; and allow the eventual return of displaced Palestinians to northern Gaza.

He told reporters in Dubai that the IDF has begun positively responding to those calls by publishing a map splitting the Gaza Strip into hundreds of small zones, which it will use to notify Palestinian civilians of active combat zones.

The military is expected to use this map to call on Palestinians from specific areas to evacuate when the IDF’s ground offensive expands to the Strip’s south, instead of demanding mass evacuations as it did in the northern part of Gaza.

Blinken said the US will be monitoring this issue closely moving forward while also working on ensuring conflict doesn’t spread to other places.

“We’ve been very clear that we support Israel in its efforts to make sure that October 7 never happens again. We’ve also been very clear about the imperative of doing that in a way that puts a premium on protecting civilians and making sure that humanitarian assistance gets to those who need it,” Blinken said.

This picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke rising from buildings after being hit by Israeli strikes, amid the war between Israel and Hamas terrorists, on December 1, 2023. (John MACDOUGALL/AFP)

The White House said the US was continuing to work with Israel, Egypt and Qatar to try and restart the truce.

“Hamas has so far failed to produce a list of hostages that would enable a further extension of the pause,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement.

The spokesperson noted that the truce allowed for the release of over 100 hostages and a surge in humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Biden and his national security team “will continue to remain deeply engaged as we look to free the remaining hostages and sustain and expand the international humanitarian response,” the statement added.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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