Violence Flares as Hamas Rules Out Extending Mideast Ceasefire

Twenty-four hours before a fragile six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is set to end, Palestinian rockets hailed down on the Israeli border town of Sderot as Hamas vows not to extend the truce, the Times of London reported.

Several shops were damaged and two people were hurt when Palestinian militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip fired into Sderot, the Israeli army said Wednesday. Israel responded with an airstrike on Gaza.

The Israeli response killed a Palestinian and Israel launched two further strikes overnight, Reuters reported.

As Palestinians are divided over whether to renew the ceasefire that has frayed since early November, the majority seem to be preparing for a surge of violence.

The Islamist group Hamas claims the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire will not be renewed when it is up on Friday, Reuters reported. Both Isreal and Hamas blame each other for the breakdown in renewing the calm.

"There is no possibility of renewing the truce which ends on Dec. 19. The Zionist enemy destroyed it," Fawzi Barhum told AFP Thursday.

"We at Hamas have the right to respond to any Zionist aggression against the Palestinian people. It's a national duty."

Israelis claimed to be in favor of renewing the ceasefire, but said they would respond appropriately if the calm falls apart.

"When the situation requires us to, we will act," Defense Minister Ehud Barak is quoted by AFP. "We are not afraid of launching a large-scale military operation in Gaza but there is no need to rush into it," he told journalists.

The Israeli government called on Hamas to stop attacks by Palestinian factions, while Hamas insists Israel must first life sanctions against the Palestinian territory.

Israel responded to violence in early November by setting up a blockade at its crossing points with Gaza, halting deliveries of humanitarian aid and other supplies, AFP reported.

Click here to read the AFP report.

Click here to read the Reuters report.