Cautious calm prevails in Gaza as Israel 'withdraws' -UPDATED

Israel's military equipment had pulled out of the Gaza Strip early on Tuesday, almost half an hour before an Egypt-brokered 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire started in the Palestinian enclave.

Cautious calm prevails in Gaza as Israel 'withdraws' -UPDATED

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Israeli army withdraw its forces from the embattled Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning as a 72-hour ceasefire comes into effect.

"Israeli forces withdrew completely from Gaza at 8a.m.," Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner told Anadolu Agency.

The Israeli government and Palestinian factions had earlier endorsed an Egyptian proposal for a three-day ceasefire in the Gaza Strip starting Tuesday.

"From 8:00am today we will implement a 72-hour ceasefire," the Israeli army wrote Tuesday morning on its Twitter account.

"During this time, we will maintain defensive positions near the Gaza border," it added.

In the Gaza Strip, where some half-million people have been displaced by the fierce fighting, some residents, carrying mattresses and with children in tow, left U.N. shelters to trek back to neighbourhoods where entire blocks have been destroyed.

Sitting on a pile of debris on the edge of the northern town of Beit Lahiya, Zuhair Hjaila, a 33-year-old father of four, said he had lost his house and his supermarket.

"This is complete destruction," he said. "I never thought I would come back to find an earthquake zone."

The ceasefire started amid hopes that it will hold to give the two sides enough time to reach a durable truce.

On Friday, a similar ceasefire crumbled two hours after it had come into effect when Israel resumed its aerial strikes against the blockaded Gaza Strip, claiming that Gaza-based groups had kidnapped an Israeli soldier.

Israel later declared the soldier killed in combat.

An Israeli delegation is expected to head to the Egyptian capital Cairo within hours to start indirect talks with the Palestinians on an arrangement that puts an end to fighting between the two sides.

Israel pulls equipment out of Gaza

Israel's military equipment had pulled out of the Gaza Strip early on Tuesday, almost half an hour before an Egypt-brokered 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire started in the Palestinian enclave, eyewitnesses said.

They added that military equipment had totally withdrawn from the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, having advanced between 1.5 and 2.5 kilometers inside the city earlier.

The eyewitnesses said the Israeli military equipment pulled out of Gaza through the military crossings Karam Abu Salem and Sofa on the eastern border of Rafah.

A senior leader of Palestinian resistance faction Hamas said early Tuesday that the 72-hour ceasefire entails Israeli pullout from the Palestinian enclave.

“Starting 8am [local time], a ceasefire would go into effect with the withdrawal of the oppressive Israeli army from the Gaza Strip,” senior member Moussa Abu Marzook tweeted.

Hamas leader Ezzat al-Rashq said that Hamas agreed to the ceasefire and would engage in indirect talks with Israel on the terms of a truce based on a list of conditions set by the Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza.

Cautious calm prevails in Gaza

A state of cautious calm prevailed in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Tuesday with Israeli warplanes flying over the Palestinian enclave at a low altitude.

Eyewitnesses said the Israeli jet fighters pounded several empty lands and houses across the enclave, but no casualties were reported.

Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qodra told Anadolu Agency that Gaza hospitals have not registered any casualties since Monday midnight.

Israeli warplanes have been flying over the embattled strip at a low altitude, while gunboats are still taking positions off the enclave’s coasts. Eyewitnesses said that Israeli military vehicles had made limited incursions into Rafah among other areas in the territory.

Otherwise, the strip’s streets have been nearly empty with only ambulances moving around just in case of any fresh Israeli strike.

Israel had been pounding the blockaded Gaza Strip – home to 1.8 million people – since July 7.

At least 1867 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed and 9450 wounded in unrelenting Israeli attacks since then.

The Israeli army has confirmed that 64 troops had been killed and 400 others injured in the ongoing Gaza military operation.

Gaza-based resistance factions, meanwhile, had continued to fire rockets at Israeli cities, killing three civilians.

The offensive – codenamed "Operation Protective Edge," is the self-proclaimed Jewish state's third major offensive against the densely-populate Gaza Strip within the last six years.

The U.S. State Department welcomed the truce and urged the parties to "respect it completely". Spokeswoman Jen Psaki added that Washington would continue its efforts to help the sides achieve a "durable, sustainable solution for the long term".

Besides the loss of life, the war has cost both sides economically. Gaza faces a massive $6-billion price tag to rebuild devastated infrastructure. Israel has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism, other industry, and fears cuts in overall economic growth this year as well.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Ağustos 2014, 13:30