Efforts to renew the Israel-Hamas lapsed truce are continuing, mediator Qatar has said, as Israel resumed its bombardment of Gaza, killing dozens.
Qatar, which led the talks that produced the weeklong truce that ended on Friday morning, said it will persist in seeking a renewed agreement, but warned that the resumption of hostilities is complicating matters.
Meanwhile, the world has reacted with disappointment and horror at the unravelling of the truce and swift return to fighting, and called for urgent efforts to stem the violence and prevent further civilian casualties inside the enclave.
A United Nations official said that “those in power have decided that the killing of children would recommence”.
Israel and Hamas have blamed one another for the breakdown of the truce.
“The Hamas-ISIS terrorist organization has violated the outline. It has not met its obligation to release all of the women hostages today and has launched rockets at Israeli citizens,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
“The government of Israel is committed to achieving the goals of the war: Releasing the hostages, eliminating Hamas and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to the residents of Israel,” it added.
Hamas officials claimed that Israel had worked to wreck efforts to extend the truce.
Osama Hamdan, a senior official for the group that governs Gaza, told Al Jazeera: “Every day in the past seven days of the temporary ceasefire, Israel was acting in a way to undermine the whole process. We were and we still are positive about all the efforts, but the Israelis are refusing them.”
Return to calm
Qatar, which together with Egypt and the United States has been mediating between Israel and Hamas, confirmed on Friday that “negotiations between the two sides are continuing with the aim of returning to a state of pause”.
It said it is committed “to continuing the efforts that led to the humanitarian pause, and will not hesitate to do everything necessary to return to calm”.
But it added that the renewed fighting “complicates mediation efforts and exacerbates the humanitarian catastrophe”.
Qatar also urged “the international community to move quickly to stop the violence”.
— Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Qatar (@MofaQatar_EN) December 1, 2023
Last week, mediators worked through the night to clinch the vital final details of the truce that began on November 24 and lasted for seven days before the hostilities resumed on Friday at 7am local time (05:00 GMT).
Before the truce began, weeks of Israeli bombardment killed about 15,000 Palestinians in Gaza, some 6,000 of them children. The campaign came after Hamas’s attacks on southern Israel on October 7, which saw 1,200 killed and about 240 prisoners taken back to Gaza.
During the pause, Hamas freed 110 of those captives, including 80 Israelis, in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners. In addition, the truce allowed more desperately needed aid to enter Gaza, although supplies of food, water, medicine and fuel remain far below the levels needed by the 2.3 million population.
In the first few hours after the truce expired on Friday morning, Israeli bombardments killed dozens across all areas of the Gaza Strip, including the south which was marked as a safe area.
Meanwhile, the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, said it attacked with rocket barrages the cities of Ashkelon, Sderot and Beersheba in southern Israel.
“Inaction, at its core, is an approval of the killing of children,” James Elder, a spokesman for the UN children’s agency UNICEF said via video link from Gaza, adding “it is reckless to think more attacks on the people of Gaza will lead to anything other than carnage.
“Has humanity given up on the children of Gaza?!” he asked in a post on X on Friday.
— James Elder (@1james_elder) December 1, 2023
The director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Robert Mardini, warned that the renewed fighting takes people in Gaza back to a “nightmarish situation,” and warned that it will slow or halt aid efforts.
World leaders have been swift to condemn the resumption of fighting and reiterate calls for the two sides to go back to the negotiating table.
“The return to hostilities only shows how important it is to have a true humanitarian ceasefire,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres posted on X.
I deeply regret that military operations have started again in Gaza.
I still hope that it will be possible to renew the pause that was established.
The return to hostilities only shows how important it is to have a true humanitarian ceasefire.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) December 1, 2023
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said: “The resumption of hostilities in Gaza is catastrophic” and urged all parties with influence “to redouble efforts, immediately, to ensure a ceasefire – on humanitarian and human rights grounds.”
“Rupture of the truce is very bad news, regrettable, because it brings no solution and complicates the resolution of all questions that arise,” French foreign minister Catherine Colonna said. She called a truce resumption “essential”.
“We are disappointed that after a brief pause, Israel has restarted bombing the Palestinian people,” a spokesperson for Pakistan’s foreign ministry said.
Germany’s foreign ministry called for the international community to do everything in its power to ensure the continuation of the truce.
Working to ensure that Hamas does not pose a threat to Israel’s existence and that it is disarmed is necessary to end the suffering of Palestinians and Israelis, the foreign ministry said on X.
“Of course, that would also mean that Hamas would have to lay down its weapons. Only in this way a political horizon can open up for a two-state solution that can provide security for both Israelis and Palestinians,” it said.
Russia said it had hoped for an extension of the pause in the fighting.
“We would certainly have preferred to see news of another extension of the humanitarian pause,” spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, adding that Moscow would “continue efforts” to secure the release of Russian citizens captured by Hamas.
Iran, meanwhile, hit out at Israel and the United States.
“After killing more than 15,000 Palestinians, the Zionist vampires have started a new round of killing under the continued support of the American government,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said in a post on X.
He added that “the political and legal responsibility for the continuation of the aggression and massacre” rests with Israel, the US and “a few governments that support this apartheid regime”.