Tension surged in and around Gaza on Friday as the Islamist rulers of the besieged Palestinian enclave declared an end to the troubled truce with Israel and warned they would respond to any attack.
Shortly after the armed wing of Hamas formally announced the shaky six-month truce was over, the smaller Islamic Jihad group said it fired three rockets at Israel, which reported no damage or casualties.
Security sources also reported that an Israeli driving a tractor in a field just outside Gaza was targeted by Palestinian gunmen but was not hit.
At dawn, Hamas’s Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said: “The ceasefire is over and there won’t be a renewal because the Zionist enemy has not respected its conditions.”
Both Hamas and Israel have said they would respond if attacked, but neither has said it would go on the offensive at this stage.
“We issue a warning to the Zionist enemy: all attacks against the Gaza Strip or any new crime will trigger a large-scale confrontation and we will retaliate very fiercely,” said a statement on the website of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.
Israeli media highlighted the increased state of alert among security forces and communities around the Gaza Strip, but also uncertainty about the risk of an escalation of violence.
“Hamas continues to maintain ambiguity,” the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot daily said. “If causing the situation to deteriorate will serve its immediate interests it will open fire even without declarations.”
Several newspapers said the Israeli defence establishment was not eager for battle at this stage.