Hamas on Thursday declared the end of a six-month-old Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel in the Gaza Strip, raising the prospect of an escalation in cross-border fighting.
"The calm, which was reached with Egyptian sponsorship on June 19 and expires on December 19, is finished because the enemy did not abide by its obligations," said Hamas member Ayman Taha, who represented the group in talks with other Palestinian factions. "The calm is over."
As the lull neared its end on Thursday, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were divided on whether they wanted it renewed.
On its side of the tense border, Israel insisted the "lull" was in the Palestinians' interest and ought to continue indefinitely.
''Zionist enemy bears responsibility'
Earlier, Hamas announced that the ceasefire will end on Friday and will not be renewed. However, it has not said what will replace it.
"The calm ends on December 19 and Hamas' position is against renewing the calm," Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
"The factions' duty after the calm expires is to protect the people, defend the Palestinian people and confront any aggression ... The Zionist enemy bears the responsibility for the end of calm," he told Reuters.
Tensions were rising throughout Thursday, as the Air Force attacked two stationary Qassam rocket launchers near the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday.
According to the IDF, one of the launch pads was used to fire a rocket on the western Negev earlier Thursday, and the second launch pad was prepared for a launching.
Early Thursday, Israeli warplanes and helicopters launched strikes against terror infrastructure in Gaza for the first time in six months, this following rocket fire on the western Negev region.