TIMELINE - Israeli-Hamas violence since truce ended

Mon Jan 5, 2009 12:53pm GMT

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(Reuters) - Combat between Israeli troops and Hamas militants raged on Monday as Israel pressed home its ground assault in Gaza in the face of French-led diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire.

Here is a timeline of events since early December:

December 14 - Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal says the group will not renew a six-month-old truce with Israel.

December 18 - Hamas declares the end of the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire, which expires the next day with a surge of cross-border fighting.

December 24 - Gaza Palestinian militants ratchet up rocket fire towards Israel.

December 27 - Israel launches massive air strikes on Gaza in response to the intensified rocket and mortar fire killing at least 229 Palestinians.

December 28 - Hamas says an Israeli air strike destroys a laboratory building at the Islamic University, a significant cultural symbol of Hamas.

-- Israeli aircraft bomb some 40 smuggling tunnels in the Gaza Strip that provide a lifeline to the outside world.

December 29 - Israel steps up its air strikes and bombs the Hamas-run Interior Ministry, the first air strike targeting a government building in the offensive.

-- Israel declares areas around the Gaza Strip a "closed military zone."

-- Palestinian militants fire rockets deeper into southern Israel.

December 30 - Israeli warplanes press on for the fourth day with attacks on Hamas targets.

-- Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum urges Palestinian groups to respond using "all available means" against Israel.

-- Israel says its attacks herald "long weeks of military action."

December 31 - Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh tells Palestinians that "victory is near."

-- Emergency session of U.N. Security Council to consider resolution drafted by Arab countries calling for immediate cease-fire adjourns without a vote.

January 1 - Israel kills Nizar Rayyan, a hardline Hamas leader, in an air attack on his Gaza Strip home.

-- Palestinian casualties since December 27 are 412 dead and about 1,850 wounded. A U.N. agency says about a quarter of the dead are civilians.

-- Three Israeli civilians and a soldier have been killed by Palestinian rockets since the air strikes began.

January 2 - No sign of a cease-fire on the seventh day of the conflict, with at least 429 Palestinians killed and 2,000 wounded, but a Palestinian official says that Egypt had begun exploratory talks with Hamas to halt the bloodshed.

January 3 - Israel launches a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, sending tanks and infantry into battle with Hamas fighters who had defied eight days of deadly air strikes.

-- Israeli tanks kill seven Gazans at the onset of the night-time invasion, bringing the Palestinian death toll since December 27 to more than 450. An air strike on a mosque kills 11 Palestinian civilians and wounds dozens.

-- Israel says calls up tens of thousands of reservists and the military's chief spokesman estimates the operation in the Hamas-run enclave could take "many long days."

January 4 - Israeli troops cut the territory in half from the border fence to the Mediterranean. Troops and armour ring Gaza City.

-- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tells French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a phone call that Israel will continue to allow in aid supplies to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

-- Israeli President Shimon Peres rejects the possibility of a cease-fire but says Israel did not intend to occupy Gaza.

-- At least 42 Palestinians, most of them civilians, are killed as shells slam into Gaza.

January 5 - Twelve civilians are killed as ground combat rages with the Palestinian death toll at least 524. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak says offensive will continue until communities in Israel are safe from Hamas rocket strikes.

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