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article imageGaza: Counting the humanitarian cost as 72-hour ceasefire starts

By Robert Myles     Aug 5, 2014 in World
Gaza - Israel has announced that all its forces are to withdraw from the Gaza Strip as part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas.
The Egyptian-mediated ceasefire came into force at 8 a.m. (5 a.m. GMT) Tuesday. It’s due to last for 72 hours. Speaking to reporters, an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman said, "The Israel Defense Forces will be redeployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip and we will maintain those defensive positions."
Agreement from both sides in this latest month-long Gaza conflict, that’s claimed the lives of almost 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis (64 of them military personnel), was announced late Monday.
During the hoped-for 72-hour break in hostilities, both Israel and Hamas are to hold indirect talks in Cairo focusing on securing a broader agreement that would halt future cross-border violence.
But as if to illustrate the febrile nature of any temporary truce, just minutes before the cessation of hostilities came into effect, BBC News reports that air raid warnings sounded in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as Hamas launched salvoes of rockets in the general direction of central Israel. Israeli forces also staged a number of raids in Gaza shortly before the 8 a.m. ceasefire.
So far during the month-long hostilities, a number of international calls from the United States, the United Nations and others have failed to halt the fighting.
The latest ceasefire comes four weeks after Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8 to counter rocket attacks targetting its territory from Gaza and to destroy tunnels used by Palestinian militants to cross the border into Israel.
According to the IDF, since the operation began, the IDF destroyed 32 tunnels along with 3,000 missiles. The IDF also claims to have killed what it terms 900 “terrorists”.
Such Israeli claims are at odds with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). According to OCHA figures, 1717 Palestinians have been killed in the latest outbreak of violence in Gaza. Of these, 1176 were civilians, including 377 children and 196 women.
Behind the fatalities, there lies another human tragedy. OCHA reckons 373,000 children caught up in the Gaza war zone require psycho-social support.
Almost half a million people (485,000) are displaced. They're either housed in temporary shelters or with host families. OCHA also reports on a potential public health calamity with an estimate 1.5 million Gaza residents without shelter and either with no or extremely restricted access to water.
Assuming Israel adheres to the terms of the latest ceasefire, one of the Palestinian demands, a full Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza, will be met, albeit temporarily. The Palestinians are also seeking an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the opening of border crossings. Hamas is also seeking the release of prisoners held by Israel as well as international assistance for Gaza’s reconstruction.
Israel has sought to justify its blockade of Gaza claiming it’s necessary to prevent arms reaching Hamas. The blockade, which has had the effect of putting Gaza’s economy in stasis, has been criticized internationally as being a form of collective punishment affecting all Gazans.
More about Gaza strip, Gaza blockade, gaza conflict, IDF, Israeli defense forces
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