The two young Palestinian brothers were killed in a massive Israeli artillery shelling, witnesses told IslamOnline.net on Sunday, January 1. "They were killed while sitting in front of their home in Al-Shaimaa district, Beit Lahia," added the witnesses. The two victims were identified as Hamzeh Hamadneh, 27, and his younger brother Moataz, 24. Their deaths bring to 4,924 the death toll since the outbreak of Al-Aqsa Intifada against the Israeli occupation in September 2000, mostly Palestinians.
As the truce officially expired with the beginning of the new year, Palestinian resistance factions said they would only agree to renew the ceasefire under international guarantees.
"Now that the cool-down has ended, we confirm that the enemy will pay the price of its crimes against our people," the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said in a statement on Sunday. "A number of our prominent leaders were assassinated by Israel during the cooling-down period and still we abided by the truce for the best interest of the Palestinian people."
Hamas stressed that now that the truce is officially expired it would not agree to a renewal as long as Israeli occupation forces pursued its incessant aggressions against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Hamas politburo leader Khaled Meshaal said in Damascus last month that the group would not renew the truce "while our people are surrounded".
Palestinian resistance factions have been observing a de facto truce since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was elected in January, an agreement that was cemented at talks brokered by Egypt last March. The shaky truce has repeatedly been put to the test by Israeli assassinations of resistance activists and incessant attacks.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the mainstream Fatah, also echoed the same position. "The cool-down can't be extended while Israel continues killings, striking and forcing its no-go zone in Gaza," said Mohamed Hegazy, a Brigades leader.
He stressed in a statement, a copy of which was obtained by IOL, that the truce had cost the Palestinians dearly while Israel continued its raids, air-strike, incursions and crackdown on Palestinians. The Brigades said it would only agree to renew a "conditional" truce with Israel.
"We will extend the truce when Israel releases Palestinian prisoners, withdraws from West Bank cities and scraps plans to establish a no-go zone in northern Gaza. "Israel must also halt its assassination of resistance activists."
Abu Hamza, an Islamic Jihad member, said his group is no longer committed to the truce with Israel. "Islamic Jihad will not extend the truce despite pressures from the Palestinian Authority and Egypt," he said.
He stressed that the truce had cost the Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades many previous lives. "Both group lost many martyrs, including Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank Louai Al-Saadi." Both groups said in a joint statement on Sunday that they had fired two rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot at around 4:15 am (0215 GMT) after the expiry of the truce at midnight. There were no reports of casualties.