Israeli troops pull out, Gaza truce begins

Israeli troops pull out, Gaza truce begins

Gaza fell silent yesterday after a month of intense combat between Israel and Hamas, as a 72-hour truce came into effect and the last Israeli troops left the battered enclave.

The firing finally stopped after 29 days of bitter and bloody fighting, bringing relief to millions on both sides of the border and halting the soaring death toll in Gaza where at least 1,867 Palestinians have died. Some 67 Israelis have also been killed.

But with the relief was scepticism.

"You know, we're just hours from the time the ceasefire started. Let's see if it is actually kept," said Israeli Orly Doron, who lives on the Gaza border that was battered by rocket fire. "We had three or four ceasefires during this war; we all saw they weren't kept."

Just minutes before the truce took hold, both Israel and Hamas engaged in a display of firepower, seemingly determined to have the last word before downing their weapons.

Sirens wailed in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as Hamas fired 16 rockets over the border, while Israeli warplanes staged at least five air strikes on Gaza.

Israeli armour and infantry left Gaza ahead of the truce. A military spokesman said cross-border tunnels dug by militants had been destroyed.

Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said troops would be "deployed in defensive positions" outside of Gaza and would respond to any violation of the truce, announced by Egypt late Monday.

People were slowly returning to homes they had fled.

Among them was Mr Rafat al-Masri, a father of five who found his home in ruins. He said: "I've worked 40 years to have this house and now it is all destroyed. There is nothing left, no rooms, no kitchen."

This article was first published on August 06, 2014.
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