Israel-Hamas ceasefire: At least 60 bodies found in Gaza after 12-hour truce begins
A 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has begun to allow civilians in Gaza to seek aid and evacuate to safer areas of the region.
Gaza's health ministry says at least 60 bodies have been recovered during the lull in fighting, bringing the Palestinian death toll to an estimated 940 since the conflict began 18 days ago. More are feared to be trapped under rubble.
Over 5,700 have been wounded and tens of thousands have been displaced, according to officials. Forty Israelis have also been killed in cross-border fighting.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) says the 12-hour pause began at 8am local time (5am GMT). During this time, it said it will continue to "locate and neutralise" tunnels used by Hamas and warned the military "shall respond if terrorists choose to exploit" the lull to attack Israeli troops or civilians.
Hamas said that the group had agreed to the 12-hour lull to allow civilians to receive aid and find safer areas. Hundreds of Palestinians poured into the streets in the minutes after the truce took force, with many heading to banks which have briefly re-opened. Others inspected damage and stocked up on supplies.
Turkey lifted a ban on flights to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport three hours after the truce was announced, according to an announcement on Twitter.
The ceasefire was agreed upon by both sides after US Secretary of State John Kerry, currently visiting the region, failed to broker a seven-day truce as a first step toward a broader deal.
It comes as 19 Palestinians were killed in airstrikes overnight and two Israeli soldiers were also killed in Gaza.
Israel on Friday rejected international proposals for an extended ceasefire, a government source said, but Mr Kerry, speaking in Cairo, said no formal proposals had yet been put forward.
Britain's United Nations ambassador had earlier said there may be "an extremely short" humanitarian pause in the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas today lasting several hours.
Mark Lyall Grant told reporters that Britain is very disappointed at the failure to reach agreement on a sustainable ceasefire but suggested a humanitarian pause could "open up a little bit of space to work on a more sustainable ceasefire".
He said foreign ministers from the US, UK Turkey and other countries are meeting in Paris today "to decide precisely on the next steps".
But there were fears that after the temporary ceasefire, there could be an escalation in the fighting.
Israel's defence minister warned on Friday Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation "significantly".
The temporary lull was unlikely to change the trajectory of the current hostilities amid ominous signs that the Gaza war is spilling over into the West Bank.
In a "Day of Rage," Palestinians across the territory, which had been relatively calm for years, staged protests against Israel's Gaza operation and the rising casualty toll there.
On Thursday night, 10,000 demonstrators marched in solidarity with Gaza near the Palestinian administrative capital Ramallah - a scale recalling mass revolts of the past.
In the West Bank, at least five Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, hospital officials said.
Israel wants more time to destroy Hamas military tunnels and rocket launching sites in Gaza, while the territory's Hamas rulers want international guarantees that a Gaza border blockade will be lifted before they cease fire.
Overnight, militants fired a barrage of rockets out of Gaza, triggering sirens across much of southern and central Israel. No injuries were reported, with the Iron Dome interceptor system shooting down some of the projectiles.
Meanwhile, heavy Israeli shelling was reported in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, an area where ground troops are operating.
One shell hit near the emergency department of Beit Hanoun hospital, wounding six people, including a foreign national who was not identified further, the Red Crescent said. Two of the wounded were in critical condition.
Residents returning during the ceasefire encountered widespread destruction across the area.
Shells also hit an ambulance in Beit Hanoun, killing a paramedic and wounding two people, the Red Crescent said.
Additional reporting by agencies
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