Gaza truce holds as Palestinians count deadly cost


GAZA CITY: Calm returned to Gaza Sunday as a fragile ceasefire ending five days of fighting held, leaving Palestinians and Israelis to count the cost of cross-border fire which has killed dozens.

Fishermen took to their boats in the coastal Palestinian enclave, as Gazans emerged from sheltering in their homes amid the fierce exchange of fire.

The fighting which broke out Tuesday with Israeli strikes on the Islamic Jihad group ceased late Saturday, following days of truce talks led by Egypt.

As the skies fell silent, residents were left to mourn the 33 people killed in Gaza, as well as the two in Israel — a Palestinian labourer from the territory and an elderly Israeli.

After the ceasefire took effect in Gaza, ambulances and fire trucks drove in convoys while Palestinians gathered in the streets to celebrate.

More than 50 homes were destroyed and around 950 people displaced in Gaza, said the United Nations citing local officials.

“We’re on the street, there’s no home for my children or their children,” said Mohammed al-Louh, whose house was destroyed by Israeli strikes.

“After the ceasefire, we have an ongoing tragedy because of the great scale of the destruction,” his relative said, standing beside the rubble.

Medics said 190 people were wounded in Gaza and 30 in Israel — seven with injuries resulting from rocket fire and the rest while heading to shelters.

In Tel Aviv, Anat Dolev, a resident from the suburb of Ramat Gan, said it was a shame to see repeated rounds of fighting.

“We have friends who live in the south and their lives are very difficult. I hope that someday the situation will improve, too bad we are killing each other,” she told AFP.

Movement restrictions imposed on Israelis living in areas near Gaza were lifted on Sunday.

‘Quiet met with quiet’

UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland welcomed the truce and said he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries”.

Sunday also saw Israel re-open its two crossings with Gaza, the closure of which had affected Palestinians with work permits or permission to access essential medical treatment not available in the impoverished territory.

The move also paved the way for supplies of medicine, food and fuel to reach Gaza.

While Israel and Islamic Jihad committed to the ceasefire, both warned they would not hesitate to resume fire if the other side violated the agreement.

“Quiet will be met with quiet,” the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Speaking at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said “the execution (of the operation) was indeed perfect”.

“Today Israel’s enemies in Gaza and far beyond know that even if they try to hide, we can –- and will — get to them at any point in time,” said the premier.

Tariq Salmi, an Islamic Jihad spokesman, said if Israel “commits any foolish act or any assassination […] the resistance will resume where it left off”.

But as calm returned in Gaza, clashes persisted in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces raided central Nablus early Sunday, sparking clashes with Palestinian residents, according to an AFP photographer.

An army statement said troops had arrested two people suspected of shooting at soldiers in the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.

The Israeli strikes on Gaza killed at least six top figures from Islamic Jihad, which is considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

At least six children and multiple civilians were also among the dead in Gaza, which is ruled by the Hamas.

Islamic Jihad responded to the Israeli strikes with volleys of rocket fire, prompting sirens to blare as Israel’s defence system intercepted most of the projectiles.__Pakistan Today