Hamas rejected extending the ceasefire on Friday, but announced it was interested in continuing the negotiations. The barrage of rockets fired on southern Israel after the 72-hour ceasefire expired served as proof of Hamas' reluctance to halt the hostilities.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for part of the salvo which broke the calm. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said the Palestinian factions did not agree on extending the ceasefire but also clarified they were willing to continue the talks in Cairo.
Hamas, essentially, emphasized that it was interesting in conducting negotiations while hostilities continued – a direct rejection of Israel's basic demand of quiet in the south. Other senior Hamas officials also toed the Gaza-based group's position.
"We do not agree to extend the lull – the negotiations will continue," said Issaq al-Risheq. Meanwhile, AFP has reported that thousands of Gaza residents have fled their homes, fearing an Israeli retaliation for the rocket fire.
Palestinian sources said that during the negotiations, Egyptian intelligence attempted to convince Hamas to extend the ceasefire by 72 hours. However, Hamas relented and clarified that its central demands must first be implemented – focusing on comprehensive end to the blockade on the Strip.
In the early morning hours, Hamas officials told Egypt it refused to extend the ceasefire. "It is a final decision. Israel offered us nothing," said one of the Hamas representatives in the Palestinian delegation to Cairo.
He noted that "Israel refused to lift the blockade." The meeting between the Palestinian delegation and Egypt's intelligence chief continued until 4:30 am, but according to Hamas did not result in a breakthrough.
Roi Kais and AFP contributed to this report.