Article published on the 2008-12-19 Latest update 2008-12-19 14:15 TU
The armed wing of the Palestinian movement Hamas has declared the end of its six-month truce with Israel and says it will respond if attacked. Thousands of Lebanese joined demonstrations in Beirut and several other towns on Friday in solidarity with Gaza's inhabitants.
The Lebanese protests were called by the Shia-Muslim-based Hizbollah movement. The demonstrators called for an end to the Israeli blockade of the area, while protesters and chanted "Death to Israel! Death to America!"
"The ceasefire is over and there won't be a renewal because the Zionist enemy has not respected its conditions," a statement by Hamas's armed wing the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said earlier Friday.
The movement says that Israeli raids on Gaza and its continuing blockade breaches the terms of the truce, while the Israeli government blames Hamas for not preventing attacks by other Palestinian factions.
Violence increased in November, with 18 Palestinians killed and Israel reporting over 250 rocket and mortar attacks.
Both Israel and Hamas say they will respond to attacks but not go on the offensive. A smaller Palestinian group, Islamic Jihad on Friday said that it had fired three rockets into Israel, although no damage or casualties are reported.
"Today we are entering a new stage of the escalation," says Gaza NGO worker Amjad Shawa, who predicts more attacks by the Israelis.
But he is as concerned by the blockade as by military action.
"We have 271 patients died suffering from a shortage of medicines and they are denied access to medical treatment,' Shawa told RFI. "So we call to the Arab world … to the international community to end the suffering of the Palestinians and to get the justice to this area."
Israel's government, which faces an election in February, will discuss the post-truce situation on Sunday.
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