Atul Aneja

DUBAI: The Palestinian militant group Hamas announced on Friday that it was ending a six-month-old ceasefire with Israel.

“The ceasefire is over and there won’t be a renewal because the Zionist enemy [Israel] has not respected its conditions,” said the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, early on Friday.

As Hamas made its announcement, Palestinian militants based in Gaza fired rockets into Israeli territory. However, the attacks did not cause casualties or damage to property.

“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.

Israel appears unlikely to consider any immediate response to the Hamas’ announcement. “We are not afraid of launching a large-scale military operation in Gaza but there is no need to rush into it,” said Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

The Israeli government is expected to discuss the situation on Sunday, said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesperson.

The Hamas has cited the repeated closures of the Israel-Gaza border crossings that have led to a humanitarian crisis in the territory as a major factor behind its decision. The Qassam Brigades said that Israel closed the crossings on 51 occasions during the ceasefire period.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said on Thursday it had run out of flour supplies because of the recent blockade.

“All crossings for goods into the Strip are closed and no humanitarian supplies, fuel and other needed commodities are being allowed to enter. A total of 7,50,000 refugees out of a population of 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip depend on food assistance from UNRWA. On an average, the agency distributes food to about 20,000 refugees per day,” the agency said.

Meanwhile, Iran has urged the U.N. Security Council to act promptly to end the “deteriorating humanitarian crisis” in Gaza. Earlier this month, Iran’s Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani criticised the Arab countries on their approach towards Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.