THE WORLDPOST
07/26/2014 07:42 am ET Updated Jul 26, 2014

During Temporary Ceasefire, Gaza Residents Return To Destroyed Areas

MOHAMMED ABED via Getty Images

GAZA/JERUSALEM, July 26 (Reuters) - Palestinians in the Gaza Strip poured into the streets on Saturday to recover their dead and stock up on food supplies after a 12-hour humanitarian truce agreed by Israel and Hamas took hold on the 19th day of their conflict.

Women in the northern town of Beit Hanoun wailed as medics pulled three dead relatives from a home struck overnight by an Israeli air strike, with hospital officials saying 85 bodies had been found after the guns fell silent at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT).

Just before the truce started, 18 members of a single family, including five children, died in a strike near the southern town of Khan Younis, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

Israel's military pledged to hold fire for 12 hours but said it would carry on searching for tunnels used by militants. The Islamist group Hamas, which dominates Gaza, said all Palestinian factions would abide by the brief truce.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been spearheading international efforts to end the fighting, in which 985 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed. His diplomatic push was to continue on Saturday in Paris.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the foreign ministers of all seven countries involved in the diplomacy -- the United States, France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Qatar -- had called for an extension of the truce.

"All of us call on the parties to extend the military ceasefire that is currently under way," Fabius said.

WAR TOLL

Israel said two more of its soldiers were killed in pre-truce fighting in Gaza, bringing the army death toll to 37 as troops battled militants in the tiny Mediterranean enclave that is home to 1.8 million Palestinians.

Two Israeli civilians and a Thai laborer have also been killed by rockets fired from Gaza. Israel launched its offensive on July 8, vowing to halt repeated rocket fire out of Gaza by Hamas militants who want to break a blockade of the territory.

Stunned residents of Beit Hanoun wandered through destroyed streets lined with damaged houses or mounds of rubble where once whole buildings had stood. Some who had not seen each other for days embraced as they surveyed the wreckage around them.

Many of Beit Hanoun's 30,000 residents had fled the area. "We hope the calm lasts and they find a solution so fighting ends. We are afraid for our children's safety," she said, adding she will not leave her home. "There is no place to go."

Israeli tanks stood by as people searched through the debris for their belongings, packing whatever they could, blankets, furniture and clothes into taxis, trucks, rickshaws and donkey carts before fleeing the town.

Naser Tattar, director of Gaza's main Shifa hospital, said most of the bodies recovered on Saturday came from Beit Hanoun, Khan Younis and Shejaia -- a district east of Gaza City. Residents returning to that neighborhood found entire blocks flattened.

Fighting continued until the truce took hold. Militants fired a barrage of rockets out of Gaza, triggering sirens across much of southern and central Israel. No injuries were reported and the Iron Dome interceptor system shot down some missiles.

EID AL-FITR

Minutes after the truce began, many Gaza residents rushed out of their homes and lined up outside banks to withdraw cash. Gaza City market was packed with people buying food and clothes for the coming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

"For us the Eid is going to be another day of war, another day of grief. I hope it all ends before we lose more people," said Shaima Mahmoud who was shopping with her four-year-old daughter for a holiday dress.

Israel on Friday rejected international proposals for an extended ceasefire, a government source said. But Kerry said in Cairo that no formal proposals had yet been put forward.

He said there were still disagreements on the terminology, but he was confident there was a framework that would ultimately succeed and that "serious progress" had been made, although there was more work to do.

Israel's and Hamas's positions are still far apart.

Hamas wants an end to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza before agreeing to halt hostilities. Israeli officials said any ceasefire must allow the military to carry on hunting down Hamas's tunnel network that criss-crosses the Gaza border.

Israel says some of the tunnels reached into Israel and were meant to carry out attack on Israelis. Other underground passages serve as weapon caches and Hamas bunkers.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Friday the military could widen its Gaza offensive.

"You must be prepared for the possibility that we will soon instruct the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) to significantly expand the ground operation in Gaza," Yaalon was quoted by his office as telling Israeli troops at an Iron Dome battery.

The Gaza turmoil has stoked tensions amongst Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Medics said eight Palestinians were killed in incidents near the West Bank cities of Nablus and Hebron on Friday -- the sort of death toll reminiscent of previous uprisings against Israel's prolonged military rule there, which shows no sign of ending.

On Thursday night, 10,000 demonstrators marched in solidarity with Gaza near the Palestinian administrative capital Ramallah. Protesters surged against an Israeli army checkpoint, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, and Palestinian medics said one was shot dead and 200 wounded when troops opened fire.

The Palestine Liberation Organization of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for more demonstrations in the West Bank and said it was helping to try to secure a ceasefire deal. (Additional reporting by Noah Browning in Gaza and Arshad Mohammed in Paris; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Tom Heneghan, Crispian Balmer and Stephen Powell)

08/08/2014 2:47 PM EDT

White House Concerned By Renewed Fighting

From Reuters:

The White House on Friday urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks and do what they can to protect civilians after Egyptian-mediated negotiations failed to extend a ceasefire and rocket fire resumed.

"The United States is very concerned about today's developments in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

"We condemn the renewed rocket fire and we are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides of that conflict," he said.

08/08/2014 1:42 PM EDT

Official: 5 Palestinians Killed In Gaza

Five Palestinians, including a 10-year-old boy, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since a ceasefire fell apart on Friday, a Palestinian medical official reported to Agence France Presse.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army said Palestinian militants fired 35 rockets into Israel on Friday, injuring a soldier and a civilian.

gaza

The father of a ten-year old Palestinian boy, who was killed in an Israeli air strike on the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in northern Gaza City, mourns at the city's Al-Shifa hospital, on August 8, 2014. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

08/08/2014 9:23 AM EDT

Palestinian Delegation Says Gaza Talks Will Continue

From Reuters:

Palestinian factions will remain in Cairo and press on with Egyptian-mediated talks despite the end of the ceasefire in Gaza, the head of the delegation, Fatah official Azzam Ahmed, said on Friday.

"We are not for escalation. We are ready to continue through our Egyptian brothers in negotiating to reach a final agreement that would return the rights to their owners," Ahmed said. "I mean here lifting the blockade of Gaza."

Ahmed said Palestinian negotiators were due to meet Egyptian intelligence officials, who have been mediating the talks, later in the day. He said Palestinian factions were united in their decision not to extend the 72-hour truce that ended at 0500 GMT and had been clear about their basic demands to end the conflict.

08/08/2014 9:13 AM EDT

Egypt: Agreement Close In Gaza Talks

Reuters reports:

Egypt called on Friday for an immediate resumption of the ceasefire in Gaza and a return to the negotiating table, saying that only a few outstanding issues remained in negotiations it was mediating between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The foreign ministry calls on all sides to rise to their responsibilities ... and to return immediately to the ceasefire commitment and exploit the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

08/08/2014 3:58 AM EDT

Israeli Airstrikes On Gaza Resume

08/08/2014 3:02 AM EDT

Cease-Fire Ends With New Rocket Attacks

A 72-hour cease-fire expired at 8 a.m. today, and not long after, Gaza militants began firing rockets at Israel, The Associated Press reported.

The Israeli military said at least 10 rockets had been fired at Israel since the truce ended. Prior to the attacks, a senior official for Hamas said the militant groups would not extend the cease-fire.

For more, click here.

08/06/2014 2:46 PM EDT

Official: Israel Agrees To Extend Ceasefire

From Reuters:

Israel has conditionally agreed to extend a ceasefire that ended a month of fighting in Gaza beyond a Friday deadline, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official did not say for how much longer Israel had agreed to extend the truce, only that: "Israel has expressed its readiness to extend the truce under its current terms," referring to the deal brokered by Egypt that took effect on Tuesday.

Hamas had no immediate comment.

08/06/2014 2:12 PM EDT

IDF: Rocket Sirens Were False Alarm

08/06/2014 1:18 PM EDT

Report: Rocket Sirens Sound At Gaza Border

ABC Foreign Editor Jon Williams reports that the IDF have confirmed the rocket sirens are sounding, but are checking to see if it is a false alarm.

08/05/2014 4:20 PM EDT

Israel Arrests Kidnapping Suspect

Reuters reports that Israel has arrested one of the suspects in the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June.

Hussam Kawasme, a 40-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested on July 11 in connection with the killing of Israelis Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, who went missing on June 12 and were discovered dead a couple of weeks later.

Their kidnapping sparked a cycle of violence that led to the month-long conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Kawasme's arrest was made public for the first time on Tuesday in a document from an Israeli court case over whether houses belonging to him and two other suspects - who remain at large - should be destroyed as a punitive measure.

The lawyers listed as representing Kawasme were not reachable for comment.

The court document said Kawasme had admitted to helping to organize the kidnapping - securing funding from the Hamas Islamist group in Gaza and purchasing weapons which he passed on to the two other suspects who carried out the attack.

Kawasme also helped to bury the bodies of the teenagers in a plot of land he had bought a few months earlier, it said.

Israel has named the other two suspects in the case as Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha.

Subscribe to the World Post email.

CONVERSATIONS