Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Israel-Hamas ceasefire: At least 60 bodies found in Gaza after 12-hour truce begins

An injured Palestinian protester is carried toward the emergency room at Ramallah Hospital (AP)
An injured Palestinian protester is carried toward the emergency room at Ramallah Hospital (AP)

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.

Seen from Gaza City, smoke and flames rise from Gaza's electricity distribution company plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip,Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Seen from Gaza City, smoke and flames rise from Gaza's electricity distribution company plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip,Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke rises from the offices of the Hamas movement's Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, shortly after was hit and destroyed by an Israeli strike, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Smoke rises from the offices of the Hamas movement's Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, shortly after was hit and destroyed by an Israeli strike, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Police officers stand in red paint which was thrown during a rally outside the Israeli Embassy to oppose Israel's actions in Gaza on July 19, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
Police officers stand in red paint which was thrown during a rally outside the Israeli Embassy to oppose Israel's actions in Gaza on July 19, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

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

Further reading

Robert Fisk: What would we do if it had been 35 Palestinian dead, and 800 Israeli? 

Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home

Israel may have committed war crimes in Gaza, says UN's human rights chief Navi Pillay

Civilian casualties in Gaza tell stories of death and heartbreak 

Deadly flechette shells used by Israeli military in Gaza 

The myth of Hamas’s human shield 

Israel-Gaza conflict: UN chief Ban Ki-moon pushing for ceasefire

Gaza bloodbath claims 500 Palestinian lives in relentless Israeli onslaught

Israel-Gaza conflict: Gaza suffers its deadliest day after ‘heinous massacre’ in Shuja’iya

Scores dead in Gaza ground battle 

Gaza action 'must be proportionate'

Israel more brutal than Hitler: Turkish PM

Thousands gather for Gaza protest

What if British had treated Northern Irish like Israel treats Palestine?

Israel launches Gaza ground offensive as four more Palestinian children are killed including a five-month-old baby

Response to Gaza 'lily-livered'

Gaza children killed as they played football on the beach

Israeli government insists it does not target civilians – the day after four children are killed by shelling

Israel actions 'disproportionate'

Gaza: Four Palestinian boys killed in Israeli rocket attack on beach

The deep-lying racism fuelling the Israeli onslaught

Alexei Sayle: Israel is Jimmy Savile of nation states

'Sderot cinema’ image shows Israelis with popcorn and hookahs 'cheering as missiles strike Palestinian targets'

Gaza back-story: A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory

From the archives

Students offered grants if they make pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets  

Cameraman in Gaza 'killed by deadly flechettes fired from Israeli tank'

Israel 'used white phosphorus deliberately and recklessly'

Kim Sengupta: Claims that Israel is using white phosphorus illegally won't go away

UN: Israelis hit our headquarters in Gaza with 'white phosphorus' shells 

Dime bombs leave Israel's victims with mystery wounds 

Israel accused of Gaza war crimes in Amnesty report

Gaza: Demolished in three weeks. Rebuilding it will take years

 Outrage as Israel bombs UN HQ, hospital, school and media building

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