Publicado: 21/05/2021

Gazans, Israel take stock after truce ends 11 days of violence

Gazans, Israel take stock after truce ends 11 days of violence

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) -

Thousands of displaced Palestinians started returning to homes in the bomb-shattered Gaza Strip on Friday, while Israelis returned to normal life as a ceasefire appeared to take hold after 11 days of deadly fighting.

But in Jerusalem, Israeli police cracked down on stone-throwing protesters at a the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound, two weeks after similar clashes sparked the conflict's worst escalation in years.

Israeli forces beat an AFP photographer who was covering the unrest there.

Clashes also broke out in several other parts of Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem, and at the crossing point between Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israeli police said, adding that hundreds of officers and border guards had been mobilised.

In Gaza, tens of thousands of Gaza residents ventured out of their homes on Friday for the first time in days, checking on neighbours, examining ravaged buildings, visiting the sea and burying their dead.

Rescuers said they were working with meagre resources to rescue any survivors under the rubble.

Nazmi Dahdouh, 70, said an Israeli strike had destroyed his home in Gaza City.

'We don't have another home. I'll live in a tent on top of the rubble of my home until it's rebuilt,' the father of five said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel's bombing campaign had killed 'more than 200 terrorists' in Gaza, including 25 senior commanders -- an 'exceptional success'.

The enclave's Islamist rulers Hamas also claimed 'victory'.

'We have dealt a painful and severe blow that will leave its deep marks' on Israel, said the movement's political chief Ismail Haniyeh, pledging to rebuild Gaza.

He also thanked Iran for 'providing funds and weapons' to Hamas.

Egypt brokered the truce, which also included Gaza's second-most powerful armed group Islamic Jihad, after days of international pressure.

- 'Genuine opportunity' -

Fighting erupted on May 10 after weeks of tensions in Jerusalem, notably over planned expulsions of Palestinians from their homes in the city's occupied east to make way for Jewish settlers.

Israeli police clashes with worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound sparked a sharp escalation.

Gaza emergency workers on Friday recovered five bodies and rescued around 10 survivors from what appeared to be a tunnel hit by Israeli bombardment, officials said.

The UN's Central Emergency Response Fund said its first aid convoys were to pass into Gaza as early as Friday evening, and that it had released $18.5 million for humanitarian efforts.

In total, Israeli air strikes have killed 248 people including 66 children since May 10, and wounded 1,948 others, the health ministry says. Fighters are also among those killed.

Large areas have been flattened and some 120,000 people have been displaced, according to Hamas authorities.

The Israeli army said Gaza militants fired more than 4,300 rockets towards Israel, of which 90 percent were intercepted by its air defences.

The rockets claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child, a teenager and an Israeli soldier, with one Indian and two Thai nationals among those killed, Israeli authorities say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.

World leaders welcomed the ceasefire deal.

'I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress and I'm committed to working toward it,' US President Joe Biden said.

The European Union insisted that a 'two-state solution' was the only viable option.

Russia and China called for a return to peace talks.

- 'Exceptional success' -

Netanyahu's office had announced the ceasefire 'without pre-conditions' on Thursday evening, confirmed shortly afterwards by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Egyptian state media reported Friday that two Egyptian security delegations had arrived to monitor the ceasefire deal from either side.

Egypt's foreign minister spoke with his Israeli counterpart and discussed measures to facilitate reconstruction operations in Gaza, a statement from the ministry in Cairo said.

The US State Department said top diplomat Antony Blinken would 'meet with Israeli, Palestinian and regional counterparts in the coming days to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians'.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said Israel and the Palestinians must now have 'a serious dialogue to address the root causes of the conflict.'

He also called for 'robust' reconstruction aid.

- 'Serious dialogue' -

Both sides have claimed success in the 11 days of fighting.

Senior Hamas figure Khalil al-Hayya on Friday told thousands of Palestinians who had gathered in the streets to celebrate: 'This is the euphoria of victory.'

Iran praised a 'historic victory' and reaffirmed Tehran's support for the Palestinian cause, while there were demonstrations in support of Palestinians in Jordan, Libya and elsewhere.

Israel said its bombing had made 'unprecedented' achievements in Gaza, a territory it has blockaded since 2007, when Hamas took over.

The flare-up began an hour and a half's drive from Gaza, in Jerusalem. The city is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians but its holy sites have sparked many of the worst episodes of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

On May 10, an Israeli police crackdown on Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound prompted Hamas to launch rockets into the Jewis state.

Israel's military responded with air strikes on what it describes as military targets in Gaza.

Palestinian and international groups accused Israel of recklessly hitting non-military sites in the densely populated strip with some two million residents.

Israel says it makes efforts to avoid civilian casualties, including by phoning residents to warn them of imminent strikes. It blames Hamas for placing military sites in densely populated areas.

The unrest also fuelled violence between Jews and Israeli Arabs in mixed cities.

Security forces have clashed with Palestinian protesters in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. At least 25 Palestinians have been killed.

Israel said at least five had attempted to attack its forces.

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