TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Israeli shelling near the southern Gaza town of Rafah killed at least 40 people on Friday, the local hospital said, as a cease-fire that went into effect only hours earlier crumbled.
Israel accused Hamas and other Palestinian groups of violating the US- and UN-mediated truce, but did not elaborate, amid Israeli media reports that gunmen had fired at Israeli soldiers in the Rafah area.
Some two hours after the truce went into effect, a Reuters photographer and the Gaza Interior Ministry said Israeli tanks opened fire in the southern Rafah area, and Hamas media reported four people were killed. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.
The 72-hour cease-fire announced in a joint statement by US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was the most ambitious attempt so far to end more than three weeks of fighting, and followed mounting international alarm over a rising Palestinian civilian death toll.
The truce was to be followed by Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Cairo on a longer-term solution.
An official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office claimed that Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip had “flagrantly violated the cease-fire”. But the official did not elaborate.
A local official in an Israeli southern border community said on Israel’s Channel 10 television that sirens warning of rocket attacks had sounded. No casualties or damage were reported.
After the cease-fire began at 8 am (0500 GMT), Gaza’s streets began to fill with Palestinian families. Laden with belongings, they streamed back to homes they fled during fierce fighting that destroyed or damaged thousands of dwellings.
Amid strong public support in Israel for the Gaza campaign, Netanyahu had faced intense pressure from abroad to stand his forces down.
International calls for an end to the bloodshed intensified after shelling on Wednesday that killed 15 people sheltering in a UN-run school in Gaza’s Jabalya refugee camp.
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