Gaza ceasefire crumbles as Israel resumes military operations
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A 72-hour Gaza truce unraveled just hours after it began, with both sides accusing the other of violating the truce terms. Three Israeli soldiers and more than 30 Palestinians were killed after the ceasefire started, FRANCE 24 has learned.
Israel informed UN officials that the ceasefire was over barely two hours after the ceasefire went into force Friday morning, with the Israeli military set to resume its operation in Gaza, according to the Israeli daily, Haaretz.
The news came as both sides recorded casualties after the truce began early Friday morning. Reporting from the Israeli town of Sderot near the Gaza border, FRANCE 24’s Antoine Mariotti said fighting broke out this morning at the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip.
At least three Israeli soldiers were also killed, according to FRANCE 24's news teams in the field. Meanwhile, Palestinian health officials said more than 30 people were killed in southern Gaza.
The 72-hour break announced in a joint statement by US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was the most ambitious attempt so far to end more than three weeks of fighting, and followed mounting international alarm over a rising Palestinian civilian death toll.
The ceasefire was to be followed by Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Cairo on a longer-term solution.
But Kerry cautioned there were “no guarantees” that the lull would bring an end to the conflict, now in its fourth week.
Reporting from Israel, FRANCE 24’s Chris Moore said, “I should point out that both sides are aware that 8am is perhaps not an exact deadline. In the last Israel-Gaza conflict when a full ceasefire was achieved, there was still fire going in both directions after that. It’s still very much a case of wait and see how things pan out over the next few hours.”
Heavy fighting before truce
Shortly before the ceasefire began, Israeli tanks shelled the eastern part of the town of Rafah in southern Gaza, killing at least four people and wounding 15, said Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra and Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji.
An Israeli Army spokesman said a heavy exchange of fire had erupted in the Rafah area, without providing further details.
Since the Israeli offensive in Gaza began on July 8, more than 1,450 Palestinians, mainly civilians, and more than 61 Israelis, nearly all soldiers, have been killed.
Previous failed ceasefire attempts
At least four short humanitarian ceasefires have been announced since the conflict began, but each has been broken within a few hours by renewed fighting. Friday’s temporary ceasefire was the longest to be announced thus far.
Under the terms of Friday’s ceasefire, Israeli troops on the ground in Gaza could continue to destroy tunnels along the heavily guarded frontier, but only those that are behind Israeli defensive lines and lead into Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday had vowed to destroy Hamas’ tunnel network “with or without a cease-fire.” But military spokesman Moti Almoz told Army Radio on Friday that Israel would not be able to eliminate the tunnel threat “100 percent.”
The ceasefire was intended to allow Palestinians in Gaza to receive food, medicine and humanitarian assistance, bury their dead, treat the wounded and travel to their homes. The lull could also have been used to make repairs to water and power infrastructure.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)
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