According to Reuters, three rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel on Tuesday (August 19) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the military to strike back, Israeli officials said, hours before a truce with Palestinian militants was set to expire.
The rockets were launched as Egyptian mediators, holding separate meetings with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, struggled to reach a long-term deal on the future of the Gaza Strip.
A military spokeswoman said the three rockets landed in open areas near the city of Beersheba and there were no reports of casualties. Reuters witnesses in Gaza City said they heard the sound of launches from the Palestinian enclave.
"This rocket attack was a grave and direct violation of the ceasefire," Mark Regev, a spokesman for PM Netanyahu said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket salvoes, and Israeli retaliation appeared imminent.View gallery
COMMENT: Hamas cannot have it both ways: Routinely violating the cease-fire and having time to restock weapons as the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians go begging.
I again emphasize that until Hamas gives up on its stated goal of destroying the Jewish state, their is no option on the table except one side or the other surrendering formally.
After a last-minute agreement was struck on Monday (August 18) to extend the cease-fire by 24 hours until 1700 hours on Tuesday (August 19), Azzam al-Ahmad, senior leader of President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, said there had been "no progress on any point" in the negotiations.
Israel, like Egypt, views Hamas, the Islamist group which dominates the impoverished enclave, as a terrorist threat and wants guarantees re: any removal of border restrictions will not result in militant groups obtaining access to new weapons.
"We hope that every minute of the coming 24 hours will be used to reach an agreement, and if not (successful), the circle of violence will continue," Ahmad said.
Palestinian officials held more meetings on Tuesday with Egyptian mediators. An Israeli government official said Israeli delegates were still in Cairo poring over details of a possible deal, although the parties had not yet agreed a draft.
An agreement would open the way for reconstruction aid to begin to flow to the Gaza Strip, where thousands of homes have been destroyed in the conflict and the United Nations said 425,000 people have been displaced.