Israel’s war with Hamas resumes with airstrikes in Gaza after a weeklong truce ends

Israel’s war with Hamas erupted again Friday, as airstrikes hit houses and buildings in the Gaza Strip minutes after a weeklong truce expired.

Health authorities in the besieged territory reported dozens of Palestinians killed and Israel dropped leaflets over Gaza City and southern parts of the enclave, urging civilians to flee to avoid the fighting.

Militants in Gaza resumed firing rockets into Israel, and fighting broke out between Israel and Hezbollah militants operating along its northern border with Lebanon.

The resumption of the war threatens to compound the suffering in Gaza. Some 2 million people almost its entire population are crammed into the territory’s south, where Israel urged people to relocate at the war’s start and has since vowed to extend its ground assault. Unable to go into north Gaza neighbouring Egypt, their only escape is to move around within the 85-square-mile area (220 square kilometres).

Renewed hostilities also heighten concerns for about 140 hostages still held captive by Hamas and other militants, after more than 100 were freed during the truce. For families of remaining hostages, the truce’s collapse was a blow to hopes their loved ones could be the next out after days of seeing others freed.

It was not clear to what extent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would heed the appeals of the United States, Israel’s most important ally.

Netanyahu’s office said on Friday that Israel “is committed to achieving the goals of the war,” including releasing the hostages and eliminating Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007.

In response to the U.S. calls, the Israeli military released an online map dividing the Gaza Strip into hundreds of numbered, haphazardly drawn parcels. It asked residents to learn the number of their location in case of an eventual evacuation. The map did not designate safe areas to evacuate to, and it was not clear how easily Palestinians could access it.

Hours into the renewed bombardment, Gaza’s Health Ministry said 178 people were killed and dozens wounded. Israel said it struck more than 200 Hamas targets.

Up until the truce began, more than 13,300 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s assault, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

The end of the truce hit families of remaining hostages especially hard.

Meirav Svirsky told Israel’s Channel 12 that a released hostage relayed a message to her from her 38-year-old brother, Itai, who is still held hostage, confirming he is alive. “His body is healthy but his mental state isn’t great,” she said. Meirav and Itai’s parents were killed on Oct. 7.

“They haven’t spoken about releasing the men, and they returned to fighting without exhausting the possibilities,” said Meirav, adding that she thinks “the state is responsible” for the fate of her brother. “From my perspective, every day when there is fighting in Gaza is putting him at risk.”

Netanyahu has been under intense pressure from the hostages’ families to bring them home. But his far-right governing partners have also pushed him to continue the war until Hamas is destroyed.

Netanyahu said Hamas had violated the terms of the truce. “It has not met its obligation to release all of the women hostages today and has launched rockets at Israeli citizens,” he said in a statement.

Hamas blamed Israel, saying it had rejected all offers Hamas made to release more hostages and bodies of the dead. Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan told The Associated Press in Beirut that Hamas rejected an Israeli list of 10 female hostages to release because they were soldiers seized at military posts.

Hamas was expected to set a higher price for releasing Israeli soldiers and male hostages, and negotiations for an extension grew tougher with few women and children hostages remaining in Gaza.

During the truce, which began Nov. 24, Hamas and other militants in Gaza released more than 100 hostages — 81 Israelis and 24 from other nationalities, mainly Thais.

Israel freed 240 Palestinians from its prisons. Virtually all from both sides were women and children.