Israel and Hamas both claimed victory on Friday after their forces ended 11 days of fighting, but aid officials warned that the damage in Gaza would take years to rebuild.
After working behind the scenes for days to achieve a truce, the White House said Washington had received assurances from the parties concerned that they were committed to the ceasefire.
As Palestinians and Israelis began to assess the extent of the damage, a Gazan said his neighborhood appeared to have been hit by a tsunami. “How can the world call itself civilized?” Abu Ali asked, standing next to the rubble of a 14-story tower.
Palestinian officials have estimated reconstruction costs at tens of millions of dollars, while economists have said the fighting could hamper Israel’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Five other bodies were removed from the rubble of Gaza, bringing the death toll to 248, including 66 children, with more than 1,900 injured.
The IDF said an Israeli soldier was killed along with 12 civilians, including two children. Hundreds of people have been treated for injuries after the rocket salutes caused panic and sent people as far as Tel Aviv to rush into shelters.
World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris said health facilities in Gaza were at risk of being overwhelmed by the thousands of injured.
She called for immediate access to the Gaza Strip for health supplies and personnel. “The real challenges are the closures,” she told a virtual UN briefing.
Gaza has been subject for years to an Israeli blockade that restricts the passage of people and goods, as well as Egyptian restrictions.
Both countries report concerns over weapons hitting Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza and directed the rocket barrage. Palestinians say the restrictions amount to collective punishment of Gaza’s 2 million residents.
Fabrizio Carboni, regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross, echoed WHO’s call for urgent medical supplies, adding: “It will take years to rebuild – and even more to rebuild fractured lives. “
US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that aid would be sent quickly to Gaza, but coordinated with the Palestinian Authority – the West-backed rival of Hamas in the occupied West Bank – “in a way that does not allow Hamas to simply rebuild its military arsenal “. .
LEADERS IN DUEL
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a televised address to the Israelis, claiming that the operation damaged Hamas’s ability to launch missiles at Israel.
He said Israel destroyed Hamas’ vast network of tunnels, rocket factories, weapons labs and storage facilities, and killed more than 200 militants, including 25 senior officials.
“Hamas can no longer hide. This is a great achievement for Israel,” he said.
“We have wiped out a significant portion of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad echelon of command. And anyone who has not been killed now knows that our long arm can reach them anywhere above the ground. or underground. “
Israel said Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups fired around 4,350 rockets from Gaza during the conflict, of which around 640 failed to enter the Gaza Strip. The IDF said 90% of those who crossed the border were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Iran, which does not recognize Israel but supports Hamas and claims to have transformed the arsenal of Palestinian fighters, said it had achieved a “historic victory” over Israel. Iranian Revolutionary Guards have warned Israel to expect “fatal blows.”
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh presented the fighting as successful resistance to a militarily and economically stronger enemy.
“We will rebuild what the occupation (Israel) has destroyed and restore our capabilities,” he said, “and we will not abandon our obligations and duties to the families of the martyrs, the wounded and those whose homes were destroyed. “
Haniyeh expressed his gratitude to the Egyptian, Qatari and UN mediators, as well as to Iran, “which has not given up on providing the resistance with money, weapons and technology”.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Muslim states in a statement to “support the Palestinian people, through military … or financial support … or in rebuilding Gaza’s infrastructure.”
Ezzat el-Reshiq, a senior Hamas political bureau official, told Reuters in Doha that the movement’s demands included protecting the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Palestinians threatened with eviction from their homes in East Jerusalem.
The Israel-Hamas hostilities were sparked on May 10 in part by Israeli police raids on the Al-Aqsa compound and clashes with Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Thousands of people gathered there again for prayers this Friday, and many demonstrated in support of Gaza.
Israeli police fired stun grenades at protesters, who threw stones and gasoline bombs at officers, and Palestinian medics said around 20 Palestinians were injured.
The clashes died down in about an hour, as the Israeli police retreated to the gates of the compound.
Civilians on both sides of the Gaza border were skeptical of the prospects for peace.
“What is the truce? What does it mean?” said Samira Abdallah Naseer, a mother of 11 children sitting near the wreckage of a building near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.
“We went back to our homes and found no place to sit, no water, no electricity, no mattresses, nothing,” she said.
At a cafe in the Israeli port city of Ashdod, northern Gaza, student Dan Kiri, 25, said Israel should keep attacking Hamas until it collapses.
“It is only a matter of time before the next operation in Gaza,” he said.
The truce, negotiated by Egypt, appeared to be part of a two-step deal, with Cairo sending security delegations to Tel Aviv and the Palestinian territories to agree on measures to maintain stability.
White House spokesman Jen Psaki said “our engagement with the Egyptian leader was a key part of this discussion and a key element in ending the conflict, given their important relationship with Hamas.” Biden on Thursday made his first appeal to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as president.
The biggest obstacle to reaching a deal was the concern of Israel and Hamas about the public reactions of their own side, and their opponents, if they agreed to a ceasefire, two sources said. Egyptian security forces.
“In our negotiations with the two sides, we depended on the need for each of them to see the extent of the damage to civilians, and we blamed each side for its criminal and international responsibilities towards civilians,” he said. one of the sources.
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