72-hour truce takes effect; Israel withdraws troops

72-hour truce takes effect; Israel withdraws troops
An eerie calm descended on Gaza on Tuesday as a 72-hour Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas came into effect with the Jewish state withdrawing troops from the battered coastal strip, raising hopes of a lasting truce after a month of intense fighting.

Minutes before the ceasefire took hold at 8 a.m. (local time), Hamas fired a barrage of long-range rockets as revenge for Israel’s ‘massacres’, referring to the killing of nearly 1,900 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

Sirens went off in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sdot HaNegev, Kiryat Malachi, Rehovot, Rishon Lezion, Gedera, Lod, Ramle, and in Ma’ale Adumim which is in east of Jerusalem. Six of the 17 rockets fired from Gaza were intercepted by the anti-missile Iron Dome defence system, the army said.

The Israeli forces responded with artillery fire, but the guns fell silent just before the truce came into effect.

The Israeli military said it has withdrawn its ground troops from Gaza for the humanitarian ceasefire in the conflict with Hamas.

‘We have no forces within Gaza,’ Israel Defense Forces spokesman Lt Colonel Peter Lerner told CNN. ‘All of them have left,’ General Moti Almoz told army radio.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said troops would be ‘deployed in defensive positions’ outside of Gaza and would retaliate to any violation of the truce.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks and destroying tunnels used by Palestinian militants. In a statement just ahead of the withdrawal, the Israel Defense Forces said it had eliminated 32 tunnels designed to allow militants to carry out raids into Israel, destroyed 3,000 missiles on the ground and killed about 900 ‘terrorists’.

The IDF estimated that some 3,300 rockets had been fired at Israel during this period, Hamas had another 3,000 rockets left. As many as 67 Israelis, all but three of them soldiers, have also died in the conflict. As the fragile truce took effect, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said he was skeptical over its prospect. ‘I am skeptical. Hamas has already violated six previous truce agreements, I hope that this time will be different but we have to wait and see,’ he told public radio.



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