Israel and Hamas began a temporary cease-fire on Tuesday that sets the stage for talks in Egypt on a broader deal on the Gaza Strip. This includes a sustainable truce and the rebuilding of the battered, blockaded coastal territory.
Minutes before the truce began at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT), Hamas launched rockets, calling them revenge for Israel’s “massacres.” However, Israel’s anti-missile system shot down one rocket over Jerusalem, police said. Another hit a house in a town near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. There were no reported casualties.
Mission accomplished: We have destroyed Hamas' tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel. All of Israel is now safer. pic.twitter.com/aDz3XKWdIN
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 5, 2014
Israel withdrew its ground forces from Gaza’s border areas ahead of the truce, and both sides halted cross-border attacks. “Mission accomplished,” the Israeli military tweeted. The shelling stopped and in Gaza City, where streets had been deserted during the war, traffic picked up and shops started opening doors.
Israeli military tanks leave Gaza
Israeli tanks leave GazaIsraeli military tanks have left Gaza, as a 72-hour truce takes effect.
Troops and tanks will be “redeployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip and we will maintain those defensive positions,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, reflecting Israeli readiness to resume fighting if attacked.
In Gaza, where almost half a million people have been displaced by a month of bloodshed, some residents, carrying mattresses and with children in tow, left U.N. shelters to trek back to neighborhoods where whole blocks have been destroyed by Israeli shelling.
If the truce holds, it would be the longest lull in almost a month of fighting that has killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.
In coming days, Egyptian mediators plan to shuttle between Israeli and Palestinian delegations in Cairo to try to work out new arrangements for Gaza. The Palestinian delegation in Cairo is led by one of President Mahmoud Abbas’ confidants, but also includes members of Hamas and other factions. On Monday, the delegation presented a joint list of demands to Egypt, said Hana Amireh, a West Bank-based PLO official who is in touch with the delegation.
The demands include a call for internationally funded reconstruction that would be overseen by an Abbas-led government that was formed in a unity deal with Hamas before the war. Mohammed Mustafa, the West Bank-based deputy prime minister of the technocrat government, said that efforts are under way to arrange a pledging conference of donor countries in Norway at the beginning of September.
International Mideast envoy Tony Blair is part of efforts to arrange that gathering in Norway. Hamas has not made any official statements but a senior Hamas official, Izzat Rishq, said late Monday that the Palestinian delegation, which includes Hamas, approved the demands handed to the Egyptians.
Israeli government officials were not available for comment. Israel TV’s Channel 10 said the Israeli delegation had not yet left for Cairo. The report said Israel wanted to make sure the cease-fire held before sending negotiators to Egypt.
Report compiled with information from Reuters and The Associated Press