Israel pulled its ground forces out of the Gaza Strip yesterday and started a 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas mediated by Egypt as a first step toward negotiations on a more enduring end to the month-old war.
Minutes before the truce began at 8am, Hamas launched a salvo of rockets, calling them revenge for Israel’s “massacres.”
Israel’s anti-missile system shot down one rocket over Jerusalem, police said. Another hit a house in a town near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. There were no casualties.
Israeli armor and infantry withdrew from the Gaza Strip ahead of the truce, with a military spokesman saying their main goal of destroying cross-border infiltration tunnels had been completed.
“Mission accomplished,” the military tweeted.
Troops and tanks are to be “redeployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip and we will maintain those defensive positions,” Israeli spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said, reflecting Israeli readiness to resume fighting if attacked.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Islamist Hamas faction that rules Gaza, said Israel’s offensive in the densely populated, coastal enclave was a “100 percent failure.”
Israel sent officials to join talks in Cairo to cement a longer-term deal during the course of the truce.
“The delegates left under an hour ago. I assume they’ve already arrived in Egypt,” an Israeli official said.
In Gaza, where about half a million people have been displaced by a month of bloodshed, some residents, carrying mattresses and with children in tow, left UN shelters to trek back to neighborhoods where entire blocks have been destroyed by Israeli shelling and the smell of decomposing bodies fills the air.
Sitting on a pile of debris on the edge of the northern town of Beit Lahiya, Zuhair Hjaila, a 33-year-old father of four, said he had lost his house and his supermarket.
“This is complete destruction,” he said. “I never thought I would come back to find an earthquake zone.”
Several previous truce attempts by Egypt and other regional powers, overseen by the US and the UN, failed to calm the worst Israeli-Palestinian fighting in two years.
An Israeli official said that in the hour before the ceasefire came into effect, the civilian airspace over Tel Aviv was closed as a precaution against Gaza rockets, and takeoffs and landings were delayed at Ben-Gurion airport.
Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,867 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed since fighting began on July 8, after a surge in Palestinian rocket launches.
Hamas said it had informed Egypt “of its acceptance of a 72-hour period of calm,” beginning yesterday.
The Palestinian Cabinet issued a statement welcoming the ceasefire after its weekly meeting in Ramallah.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said there was “clear evidence” of war crimes by Israel during its offensive in Gaza as he met International Criminal Court prosecutors in The Hague to push for an investigation.
Both sides have traded allegations of war crimes during the Gaza assault, while defending their own actions as consistent with international law.
NO CONNECTION: Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang said the CECC has linked no deaths so far to the AstraZeneca vaccine Eleven people in the nation have died after receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, but the deaths should not deter older people with chronic health conditions from getting vaccinated. Nine of the deaths — people aged 65 to 97 — took place three hours to one day after the AstraZeneca vaccine was given, the center said, while eight of the 11 deaths were people aged 75 or older, most of whom had chronic health conditions. On Wednesday, the center said that 12 more people — seven women and five men aged 42 to 97 at
HELPING HAND: Vaccine eligibility can likely be widened to cover pregnant women now that the nation has more vaccine doses than it planned for, Chen Shih-chung said Taiwan yesterday received a shipment of 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by the US, obtaining its largest single batch of vaccines since the COVID-19 pandemic began early last year. A cargo plane of Taiwanese national carrier China Airlines Ltd (中華航空) carrying the Moderna Inc vaccines landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at about 4:30pm, after leaving Memphis, Tennessee, early on Saturday, US time. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) and American Institute in Taiwan Director Brent Christensen were at the airport to welcome the plane. The vaccines were transported to a cold chain logistics center, where they would be inspected
‘NO STRINGS ATTACHED’: The US is donating the shots without any political or economic conditions, and with the singular aim of saving lives, a senior US official said The US was yesterday to ship 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan, a senior US administration official told Reuters, more than tripling Washington’s previous allocation of shots for the nation. Washington, competing with Beijing to deepen geopolitical clout through so-called “vaccine diplomacy,” had initially promised to donate 750,000 doses to Taiwan, but is increasing that number as US President Joe Biden’s administration advances its pledge to send 80 million US-made shots around the world. The 2.5 million donated doses of the Moderna Inc vaccine would leave Memphis, Tennessee, on a flight belonging to Taiwan’s national carrier, China Airlines Ltd (中華航空), early
VULNERABLE: The CECC has been moving older infected people or those with underlying health conditions, who were in isolation, to hospitals for better health monitoring The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported 75 locally transmitted COVID-19 infections, the lowest daily count since the nationwide level 3 alert was issued last month. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said the 75 local infections are 35 males and 40 females, aged from under five to over 80, and they began experiencing symptoms between June 8 and Sunday. New Taipei City reported 38 cases, followed by Taipei with 22, Taoyuan with five, Miaoli County with three, Keelung and Taichung with two each, and Kaohsiung, Yunlin County and Changhua County with one each, CECC