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Israel launches series of airstrikes after rockets fired from Gaza

JERUSALEM: Israel says it has carried out a series of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip after three rockets fired by Palestinian militants hit the south of the country. The latest round of violence meant a day-long truce that had been extended on Monday night for another 24 hours, broke down.

The Israeli military said the rockets landed in open areas near the city of Beersheba. There were no reports of casualties. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said, “This rocket attack on Beersheba is a grave and direction violation of the ceasefire.”

The Israel Defence Forces added on Twitter: “Terrorists have violated the ceasefire.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his military to strike Gaza “terror targets”, according to an official. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket attacks.

But shortly before the launch, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum hinted of more rocket fire, saying, “If Netanyahu doesn’t understand ... the language of politics in Cairo, we know how to make him understand.”

The extension to the five-day temporary truce had been agreed between Israel and Gaza’s rulers Hamas and was due to expire at 10pm (UK time) on Tuesday night. Egyptian-brokered negotiations have been taking place over how to end the weeks-long conflict.

Netanyahu has now reportedly ordered his negotiators in Egypt’s capital Cairo to return home. Israel launched its military offensive on July 8 to stop rocket fire from the Palestinian territory. In over a month of fighting, nearly 2,000 Palestinians have been killed, the majority of them civilians.

Sixty-seven Israelis have been killed, all but three of them soldiers. Hamas is seeking an end to a seven-year Israeli-Egypt blockade that has hit Gaza’s economy. Israel wants the militant group to disarm.