Day 29: The 72-hour truce in Israel-Gaza war appears to be holding (LIVE BLOG)



A Palestinian man looks on while standing in what remains of his house in part of the northern Beit Hanun district of the Gaza Strip after a 72-hour truce accepted by Israel and Hamas came into effect on Aug. 5, 2014.




UPDATE: 8/5/14 4:00 PM ET

Signing off

This live blog is now closed. We will continue coverage tomorrow.

UPDATE: 8/5/14 3:45 PM ET

Europe has had a growing anti-Semitism problem for years now

GlobalPost's Timothy McGrath writes:

Many news outlets, including the New York Times, are reporting that — since Israel launched its military operation against Hamas on June 8 — there have been alarming spikes in incidents of anti-Semitism across Europe. This is true. But there's an even scarier truth: Europe has had a growing anti-Semitism problem for years now.

Read McGrath's piece here.

UPDATE: 8/5/14 3:13 PM ET

War in Gaza 'fought largely behind the scenes,' NY Times photographer Tyler Hicks says

There haven't been many photos or videos showing Hamas fighters in Gaza in news reports.

This video by Indian TV channel NDTV which claims to show Hamas militants firing rockets is kind of an exception.

Below, The New York Times staff photographer Tyler Hicks offers one reason for the dearth of photos of Hamas fighters:

"This is a war fought largely behind the scenes," Hicks says. "Hamas fighters are not able to expose themselves. If they were to even step a foot on the street they would be spotted by an Israeli drone and immediately blown up. We don't see those fighters. They are operating out of buildings and homes and at night. They are moving around very carefully."

Read the full Q&A with Hicks for a riveting look at covering the war in Gaza.

UPDATE: 8/5/14 2:06 PM ET

The staggering level of destruction in Gaza

Agence France-Presse — Khayri Hasan al-Masri fled his home in Beit Hanun with his wife and three children nearly three weeks ago when Israel announced the launch of its July 17 ground offensive.

They left a tidy white house, with its grassy courtyard, a palm tree and a lemon tree. But when he returned on Tuesday to this small town in northern Gaza as a 72-hour ceasefire took hold, he was confronted by scenes of utter destruction.

"Is this is really my town?" he asks, dumbfounded, gawping at the gutted, collapsed homes. 

At the edge of the sandy streets, Israeli tank tracks left their imprint and donkeys lay dead.

The structure of his home is still intact but there are gaping holes in the walls. The bedroom of his 11-year-old son Hasan is covered in cartridges.

A mortar lies in the living room, a bazooka upstairs. A map of the local area has been scrawled on one wall in Hebrew suggesting Israeli soldiers used his home as some kind of base after the family fled.

Khayri returned alone, sparing his immediate family the ordeal of seeing the devastation. "What am I going to tell my wife and children," he says. "I don't want them to see this! They will go crazy. How can I explain all this?"

Khayri is one of thousands of Gazans who used the 72-hour Egyptian-brokered truce, to venture out to see if their homes were still standing. 

Widow Zakia Shaban Bakr Masri, 74, her face framed by a headscarf the same green as the lemons hanging in Khayri's garden, walks with a heavy heart over what remains of her family home.

"As soon as I returned, I cried," she whispers in a shrill tone. "All my life savings were here, in my room. I have nothing left."

A displaced Palestinian family returns home amid the destruction in part of the northern Beit Hanun district of Gaza Strip after a 72-hour truce accepted by Israel and Hamas came into effect on Aug. 5, 2014.

A general view shows destruction in part of the northern Beit Hanun district of Gaza Strip at the beginning of a 72-hour truce accepted by Israel and Hamas on Aug. 5, 2014.

Palestinian children make their way though the rubble of destroyed buildings as they return home in the northern Gaza Strip on Aug. 5, 2014, after a 72-hour humanitarian truce went into effect following intense global pressure to end the bloody conflict.

UPDATE: 8/5/14 1:28 PM ET

Here's what Israeli soldiers are saying about the Gaza operation

Buzzfeed's Sheera Frenkel reports:

Some were happier to leave than others, some felt troubled, while a few soldiers said they scarred by what they had seen during the weeks of fighting. All, however, expressed frustration at a "job not yet done" and seemed certain they would soon find themselves back in the Gaza Strip.

Read Frenkel's story here.

UPDATE: 8/5/14 12:00 PM ET

On controlling the narratives of the war

Do have a look at this piece by The Washington Post's bureau chief in Africa Sudarsan Raghavan on how both sides are attempting to shape stories of the war.

"In virtually every conflict, each side tries to manipulate foreign journalists into covering its grievances, to look at the violence and the destruction through its lens," Raghavan writes. "But Israelis and Palestinians take this to a whole new level. To both sides, foreign news is as much a weapon of war as the rockets and the airstrikes."

Read it in full here

UPDATE: 8/5/14 9:45 AM ET

This is how much money the UN still needs to deliver basic aid to Gaza

Graphic by GlobalPost's Simran Khosla

UPDATE: 8/5/14 9:15 AM ET

A senior foreign minister calls UK's Gaza policy 'morally reprehensible,' tenders resignation

The Guardian reports:

Responding to [Baroness Sayeeda Warsi's] resignation, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The prime minister regrets that Baroness Warsi has decided to stand down and is grateful for the excellent work that she has done, both as a minister and in opposition.

“Our policy has always been consistently clear – the situation in Gaza is intolerable and we’ve urged both sides to agree to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.”

Warsi became the first Muslim to sit in the cabinet when she was made Conservative party co-chair by Cameron after the 2010 general election.

Full story here

Here's Warsi's resignation letter:

UPDATE: 8/5/14 8:45 AM ET

Will this ceasefire last?

The 72-hour truce brokered by Egypt between Hamas and Israel appears to be holding so far. Reuters reports:

Minutes before the truce began at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT), Hamas launched a salvo of rockets, calling them revenge for Israel's "massacres."

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 casualties.

Israeli armor and infantry withdrew from the Gaza Strip ahead of the truce, with a military spokesman saying their main goal of destroying cross-border infiltration tunnels had been completed.

"Mission accomplished," the military tweeted.

Israeli Merkava tanks roll near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave on Aug. 5, 2014, after Israel announced that all of its troops had withdrawn from Gaza.

Troops and tanks will be "redeployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip and we will maintain those defensive positions," spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said, reflecting Israeli readiness to resume fighting if attacked. 

UPDATE: 8/4/14 4:30 PM ET

Signing off

At this point, it's quite hard to muster much optimism for even a short-term ceasefire. But hope springs eternal.

We will continue coverage tomorrow.

UPDATE: 8/4/14 3:47 PM ET

The toll of war 

More than 1,800 people have lost their lives in the Israel-Gaza war, Agence France-Presse reports.

These are some scenes from Gaza today... destruction, displacement, devastation.

A Palestinian woman carries her baby as she walks across the rubble of a building where rescue workers are searching for victims of the Israeli military offensive, close to the Rafah refugee camp, in southern Gaza Strip, on Aug. 4, 2014.

Displaced Palestinian children look out from a tent where their family are taking refuge in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on Aug. 4, 2014, after fleeing their home due to Israeli shelling on the besieged Palestinian Territory.

A Palestinian girl cries as her father, wounded in an Israeli air strike on the al-Shati refugee camp, is treated at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, on August 4, 2014.

UPDATE: 8/4/14 3:15 PM ET

'Many more missions to complete,' says Israeli army

"We will not leave, we will stay in the Gaza Strip. There are many more missions to complete," Agence France-Presse quoted an Israeli army spokesman as saying. He also reportedly said that all known Hamas tunnels have now been destroyed, according to the news agency.

A picture taken from the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows the sun setting over the Palestinian coastal enclave on Aug. 4, 2014.

UPDATE: 8/4/14 2:28 PM ET

Tasteless, appalling Israel-Gaza video games

GlobalPost's Timothy McGrath writes, "One horrifying Gaza video game is unfortunate. Several horrifying Gaza video games make a disturbing pattern."

UPDATE: 8/4/14 1:41 PM ET

Inside Hamas' tunnels

Getty photographer Ilia Yefimovich took these photos of tunnels built by Hamas — which Israel is seeking to destroy.

Last Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister said he intends to continue the country's operation to destroy these tunnels regardless of ceasefires, Reuters reported.

"We are determined to complete this mission with or without a ceasefire," Netanyahu was quoted as saying by Reuters. "I won't agree to any proposal that will not enable the Israeli military to complete this important task for the sake of Israel's security."

The photos below show an Israeli soldier walking inside one of the tunnels:

UPDATE: 8/4/14 1:19 PM ET

Human Rights Watch accuses Israel of killing fleeing Gazans in 'apparent violation of the laws of war'

Agence France-Presse — Human Rights Watch on Monday accused Israel of killing civilians as they attempted to flee a stricken neighborhood of Gaza, in what it said would amount to a war crime. 

"Israeli forces in the southern Gaza town of Khuza'a fired on and killed civilians in apparent violation of the laws of war in several incidents between July 23 and 25," said the New York-based watchdog. "Deliberate attacks on civilians who are not participating in the fighting are war crimes."

Read Human Rights Watch's report here

UPDATE: 8/4/14 11:43 AM ET

From an Israeli navy ship, a view of the war

GlobalPost senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky reports:

Tossing and bumping on the choppy Mediterranean Sea, the Israeli navy ship Keshet sailed the brief distance from its home port in Ashdod last Friday to the Yam Tetis natural gas rig which is its mission to protect.

The coast of Gaza was clearly visible nearby, in what appeared to be swimming distance from the boat.

His shirt billowing, Corporal Dylan, a 20-year-old in his sixth month of service — who is identified only by his first name in accordance with standard Israeli military practice — said he feels "completely safe on this ship."

The ship, which carried only a cargo of curious journalists, is an offensive weapon of war: In front of Dylan, on the ship's bow, there was a white silo containing a US-made Vulcan phalanx anti-missile cannon.

Nofar Levy, a spokesperson for Israel's navy, is one of a growing class of women serving in the reserves.

"This ship's mission is to protect the Tetis rig," she said. "But it is never just for patrols — every ship is prepared to engage."

Commander Z, the deputy commander of Israel's Third Flotilla, to which this ship belongs, described the navy's efforts, so far as successful against "non-stop attempts by Hamas to penetrate Israel by the sea."

So far, three attempts by Hamas frogmen to infiltrate Israeli communities have succeeded in landing men onshore, but have been thwarted on the beachfronts.

"We use a lot of different measures to follow those terrorists," Z said. "We follow them as they go into the sea, swim and go to shore."

"We have had information that they are planning to do it and it [the infiltration attempts] didn't come as any surprise," he added. 

Fast-attack missile boats like the Keshet, which means "Bow" in Hebrew, carry "missiles so precise we can hit a specific window," Z said, pointing toward missile launchers on the side of the ship.

During this conflict, Israel's navy has been severely criticized for errant shots like the one on July 16 that resulted in the deaths of four Gazan boys playing in the sand.

After another errant shell — this one from an airstrike — landed near a United Nations school serving as a shelter, killing 10 people on Aug. 3, Israel is facing growing international pressure to desist from its policy of returning fire to civilian installations when fired upon.

In unusually sharp remarks, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said the United States was "appalled" by the "disgraceful shelling," as quoted in Times of Israel.

"UN facilities, especially those sheltering civilians, must be protected, and must not be used as bases from which to launch attacks," she said, emphasizing that "the suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians." 

"We aim only for targets that are Hamas," Z said, in an argument that seems to be wearing thin on the international community. "We never aim at civilian targets. The reason for civilian casualties is because Hamas uses those poor people as shields."

UPDATE: 8/4/14 11:32 AM ET

Israel is resuming air strikes in Gaza

"We are resuming our operations, including air strikes, against terrorist infrastructures in Gaza," Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.

UPDATE: 8/4/14 10:16 AM ET

'Why aren't the safe zones [in Gaza] working?'

Last Wednesday, an attack on the Jabaliya refugee camp — a United Nations school in Gaza which was providing refuge to Palestinians — killed 21 people. The New York Times has an in-depth piece delving into some of the unsettling and unanswered questions surrounding the attack.

From the piece:

"Why aren't the safe zones working?" asked Robert Turner, the Gaza director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which is sheltering nearly 260,000 people in 90 schools and emails the Israeli authorities with their exact locations twice a day. "Why are the military decisions being made that are leading to these tragedies?"

The Israeli general who heads a committee charged with investigating the civilian impact of ground operations said that he did not know the details of what happened in Jabaliya because the troops involved were still fighting and therefore had not been interviewed.

Read the story here.

UPDATE: 8/4/14 9:37 AM ET

Reports of another attack in Jerusalem

GlobalPost's senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky in Jerusalem has more details:

And more from BBC's news producer Michael Shuval:

UPDATE: 8/4/14 9:15 AM ET

In Jerusalem, one person was killed in an alleged 'terrorist attack' 

Agence France-Presse — One Israeli was killed and five others injured Monday when an excavator rammed into a Jerusalem bus, turning it over before the driver was shot dead by police, officials said.

The incident took place on the seamline between east and west Jerusalem and came as Israel pressed a major military campaign in Gaza which has killed more than 1,800 Palestinians.

Police said the excavator had overturned a bus, prompting two police officers who were in the vicinity to open fire, killing the driver and foiling what they described as a "terrorist attack."

Israeli security forces stand next to an overturned bus after a Palestinian man rammed an excavator into it, on Aug. 4, 2014 in Jerusalem, killing one person and injuring five others.

Israeli policemen stand guard at the scene after a Palestinian man rammed an excavator into a Jerusalem bus, on Aug. 4, 2014 in Jerusalem.

UPDATE: 8/4/14 8:45 AM ET

Palestinians and Israelis trade charges of breaking Gaza truce

Reuters — Palestinians and Israel accused each other of breaking a seven-hour ceasefire intended to allow humanitarian aid into the battered Gaza Strip soon after it came into force on Monday.

Palestinians said Israel had bombed a refugee camp in Gaza City, killing an eight-year-old girl and wounding 29 other people, while Israel said at least four rockets had been fired at its territory from Gaza.

A Palestinian child, wounded in an air strike at al-Shati refugee camp, lies on a stretcher as he is treated at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, on Aug. 4, 2014.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said the air strike on a house in Shati camp took place after the truce was scheduled to start on Monday morning.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was checking the refugee camp attack. She said four rockets had been fired from Gaza since the truce started and two had crashed inside Israel. There were no reports of casualties or damage.

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