Palestinians, Israelis count deadly cost as Gaza truce holds

AFP , Sunday 14 May 2023

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.

Palestinians inspect the rubble of Islamic Jihad member Zeyad Selmi s house after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Saturday, May 13, 2023. AP


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 militant group ceased late Saturday, following days of truce talks led by Egypt.

After the ceasefire took effect in Gaza, ambulances and fire trucks drove in convoy while 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.

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 Palestinian rocket fire and the rest while heading to shelters.

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 the blockaded enclave.

'Quiet met with quiet'

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.

"If Israel is attacked or threatened, it will continue to do everything that it needs to in order to defend itself."

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 -- which is ruled by the militant group Hamas -- killed at least six top figures from Islamic Jihad, at least six children and multiple civilians.

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.

Restrictions imposed on Israelis living near the Gaza border were expected to be lifted later Sunday.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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