19 Dec 2008

Hamas lets ceasefire with Israel lapse

8:16 pm on 19 December 2008

Hamas has declared an end to a ceasefire with Israel in the Gaza Strip, raising the prospect that cross-border fighting will escalate.

A Hamas official said the ceasefire, which expired on 19 December, was not renewed because Israel had not eased a crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip and halted all attacks.

Earlier, a Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, Fawzi Barhum, said the Palestinian people did not think they had anything to gain by keeping the truce in place.

Israel had hoped to extend the six-month-old, Egyptian-brokered truce.

But tensions along the Israeli-Gaza border have been escalating since early last month when an Israeli army raid triggered a wave of rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.

On Wednesday, at least 20 rockets hit Israel, injuring two people. The army responded with air strikes that killed a Palestinian.

The following day 14 more rockets struck Israeli soil, causing damage but no injuries.

Israel has insisted the ceasefire was in the Palestinians' interest and ought to continue indefinitely.