Israel vows to inflict ‘the mother of all thumpings’ on Hamas as ceasefire ends

Israel vowed that Hamas would “take the mother of all thumpings”, after a week-long ceasefire ended on Friday, engulfing the Gaza Strip in a new bout of fighting.

Hours into the renewed bombardment, Israel said it had struck more than 200 targets throughout the enclave, while Hamas health officials said more than 175 Palestinians had been killed.

Israel blamed the end of the truce on the Palestinian terror group, saying it had fired a rocket before the agreed pause in fighting was lifted and refused to release all women taken hostage on Oct 7.

Eylon Levy, a government spokesperson, said: “Having chosen to hold on to our women, Hamas will now take the mother of all thumpings.”

While Israeli bombing of Gaza resumed within seconds of truce expiry, sirens blared across Israel as Hamas fired rockets from the coastal enclave into a string of towns.

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, also blamed Hamas for the collapse of the truce, pointing to a deadly shooting at a Jerusalem bus stop on Thursday and what he said was the group’s failure to fulfil commitments to release certain hostages.

Hamas, however, said Israel had “persistently” rejected offers to free other captives.

Palestinian women with children flee their houses after Israeli strikes resumed on Friday
Palestinian women with children flee their houses after Israeli strikes resumed on Friday - Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/REUTERS

It came amid reports that Israel is planning for a long war against Hamas that will be waged for a year or more and will include an imminent push by its forces into the south of Gaza.

The operation is aimed at killing the group’s top three leaders – Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Marwan Issa – and destroying its ability to govern in the territory, the Financial Times reported, citing unnamed Israeli officials.

In an indication of its intentions, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) published a map dividing the 140-square-mile Gaza Strip into hundreds of blocks early on Friday morning.

The IDF said the map was intended to spare civilian lives, allowing for targeted warnings to be given to Palestinians in advance of specific offensive operations.

But it was unclear how such information would be announced to those in Gaza, some of whom said they remained in the dark on where to find updates.

Most Palestinians are now packed into the southern part of the enclave, in and around the city of Khan Younis, having fled in that direction in hopes of finding safety and possibly entering Egypt via the Rafah border crossing.

The US has been pressing Israel to adapt its approach in the south after weeks of intense air strikes levelled much of the north.

One senior US official told CNN options being considered included moving civilians who fled south back to the north once military operations there end.

Even if that plan were to be allowed by Israeli authorities, it’s unclear whether it’s feasible for hundreds of thousands of people to return, as war has reduced many homes and key infrastructure to rubble.

The IDF has to date warned displaced Palestinians against returning north, saying the area remained a war zone.

A Palestinian woman assists a wounded child in Gaza following an Israeli strike after a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel expired
A Palestinian woman assists a wounded child in Gaza following an Israeli strike after a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel expired - STRINGER/REUTERS

Israel was also reported on Friday to have told several Arab states that it wants to create a buffer zone along the Palestinian side of the territory’s border to prevent future attacks of the like carried out on Oct 7.

It came as the IDF confirmed the deaths of five hostages held by the terror group in Gaza, saying their families had been informed, and the body of one returned to Israel.

Qatar, which brokered the ceasefire, said the return to fighting had complicated efforts to restore the truce and free the more than 130 captives still thought to be held by the group in exchange for the release of more Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

Hamas said that it had offered to hand over the bodies of the three members of the Bibas family that it said were killed by Israeli air strikes, including the youngest hostage, a 10-month-old baby.

The group also said that they “seriously sought, and are still seeking a truce, even with the return of the Israeli aggression.”

Israel claimed that Hamas had refused to free more female civilian hostages it believed the group was holding.

Daniel Hagari, an IDF spokesman, said “136 hostages, among them 17 women and children” were still under Hamas’s control.

The collapse of the truce in Gaza also led to clashes between the IDF and Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group, along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

Lebanese state media reported that Israeli shelling had killed three people in the country’s south, a Hezbollah stronghold.

The Iran-backed terror group, an ally of Hamas, said one of its ranks was among those killed.

It also said it had carried out several attacks on Israeli military positions along the frontier in support of Palestinians in Gaza, warning it was vigilant and ready after the truce there ended.

Israel’s northern border has been the site of many skirmishes since the events on Oct 7, prompting concerns the conflict could escalate into a full-scale regional war.

About 100 people in Lebanon have been killed during the hostilities, 80 of them Hezbollah fighters. Tens of thousands of people have fled both sides of the border.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry said the death toll had climbed to more than 15,000 people as fighting resumed.

The bloodshed added further fuel to mounting global concern over the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the territory.

James Elder, a Unicef spokesperson in Gaza, called for a “lasting ceasefire.”

“Today those in power decided that the killing of children would recommence in Gaza,” he said.

Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office in Geneva, said: “Hell on Earth has returned to Gaza.”