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Gaza briefly calm before UN ‘humanitarian pause’ broken

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Diplomatic efforts continue, Hamas remains silent on Egyptian ceasefire proposal

Rockets fired from Gaza on Thursday shattered a five-hour “humanitarian pause” sponsored by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) Robert Serry.

The pause began at 10am local time and was scheduled to last until 3pm. In a Thursday statement delivered by his spokeswoman, Serry called on “Hamas and other factions to respect the humanitarian pause from their side, in the interest of the people of Gaza”.

Less than three hours into the pause the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)  spokesperson reported that three mortars “hit the Israeli community of Eshkol” and accused “Hamas terrorists” of being responsible.

Following the expiry of the deadline rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The IDF spokesperson reported that one of the rockets hit the coastal city of Ashkelon. The Al-Qassam brigade reported launching mortars toward “a military site in the Negev (desert) and Ashkelon”

Serry’s call came at the start of the eleventh day the of the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge, launched in retaliation to rockets fired at Israeli civilian areas, according to the Israeli side. The Israelis accepted Egypt’s proposed initiative for a ceasefire, announced on Monday, however Palestinian faction Hamas claims it was never officially approached. Daily News Egypt learnt on Wednesday that the Egyptians approached the group indirectly.

By Thursday morning the death toll in the Gaza Strip had reached 230, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Interior. 27 year-old Abdullah Al-Akhras, 20 year-old Bashir Abdel Aal and 25 year-old Mohamed Ziad Ghanem were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the east of Rafah, said the ministry.

A group of four young boys were killed on Wednesday afternoon whilst playing on the beach in the East of the Gaza Strip. All four of the boys were from the same extended family. The Israeli authorities said an investigation into the incident had been launched.

The first Israeli death was recorded on Tuesday as a result of mortar fire from the Gaza strip, reported the IDF.

Ahead of the humanitarian pause the ministry called “on all citizens and resistance fighters to take the utmost caution and not to be reckless during the truce” adding that it “does not believe the cunning occupation (Israel)”.

Both the IDF and Hamas’ militant wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, confirmed an attempted incursion into Israel from the Gaza Strip via a tunnel. The IDF claimed to have thwarted the mission while the Al-Qassam Brigades said the operatives came under fire following the completion of their mission. It is not clear what the exact nature of the mission was only that the tunnel opening was near the Sufa Kibbutz, close to both the Gazan and Egyptian borders.

As of 3pm on Wednesday 77% of the casualties in Gaza were civilian deaths according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). The UN body added that this raises “concerns about respect for international humanitarian law”.

Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry received Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East Tony Blair on Wednesday in Cairo. The former British prime minister expressed the international community’s supports for Egypt’s ceasefire proposal during a press conference after their meeting. Blair said that if Egypt’s proposal is accepted and “the violence stops, then the process of building a decent future can begin”.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Cairo on Wednesday and met President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, confirmed foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty. Abbas also welcomed Shoukry and Arab League Secretary General at his Cairo residence on Wednesday evening to discuss efforts for achieving a ceasefire. Abbas had accepted the proposal put forward by Egypt on Monday night.

About the author

Joel Gulhane

News Reporter

Joel Gulhane is a journalist with an interest in Egyptian and regional politics. Follow him on Twitter @jgulhane


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