Ceasefire Breaks Up in Middle East

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Smoke and flames rise from Gaza's electricity distribution company plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip. UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan
Smoke and flames rise from Gaza's electricity distribution company plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip. UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan

Game-Changer in Gaza Strip

NEW YORK – The ceasefire in the Gaza has ended. An Israeli soldier has been captured and is being held by Hamas forces according to several reports. The Israeli military has ramped up efforts to find their soldier and to destroy the tunnels that they state Hamas has been building. Soon after the truce began Gaza officials said Israeli tanks opened fire in the southern Rafah area. Hamas media reported that several people were killed.

Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said: “Yes. We are continuing our activities on the ground.”

The ceasefire was supposed to last for three days. Negotiators from both sides have arrived in Cairo, Egypt to start talks that the United States and the United Nations brokered ceasefire was allowing. Signs were hopeful for the planned three day ceasefire.

1,460 Palestinians, mostly civilians, along with 63 Israelis, mostly soldiers have died in the conflict so far.

Clear skies over the Gaza Strip and the relentless sound of artillery and tank shelling had mostly fallen silent. Vehicles were back on the roads and people on the streets. Palestinians were streaming back to the homes they’d fled during weeks of fierce fighting.

Smoke and flames rise from Gaza's electricity distribution company plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip. UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan
Smoke and flames rise from Gaza’s electricity distribution company plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip. UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan

The Palestinians were hoping their houses were still standing and trying to piece together their lives. The three-day ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups was to come into effect on Friday.

The ceasefire was announced on Thursday. All parties have agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire in the conflict in the Gaza Strip, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and United States Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Thursday, culminating the latest diplomatic push to end the deadly violence that has gripped the tiny enclave for nearly a month.

Reading a statement at Headquarters in New York, UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters that Mr. Ban and Mr. Kerry had announced that the UN Representative in Jerusalem, Special Coordinator Robert Serry, has received assurances that “all parties have agreed to an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.”

“This humanitarian ceasefire will commence at 8 am local time on Friday, August 1, 2014. It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time, the forces on the ground will remain in place,” said Mr. Dujarric.

“We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire.”

The spokesperson went on to say that the pause is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and have the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.

“Israeli and Palestinian delegations will immediately be going to Cairo for negotiations with the Government of Egypt, at the invitation of Egypt, aimed at reaching a durable ceasefire,” he said, adding that the parties will be able to raise all issues of concern in these negotiations.

“We thank key regional stakeholders for their vital support of this process, and count on a continued collaborative international effort to assist Egypt and the parties reach a durable ceasefire as soon as possible,” Mr. Dujarric added.

News of the ceasefire comes as UN relief officials urged the parties to protect civilians amid the ongoing conflict, which has resulted in thousands of casualties and caused widespread displacement and destruction.

“The reality of Gaza today is that no place is safe,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos said in her briefing to the Security Council on the latest situation.

“We have all watched in horror the desperation of children, of civilians as they have come under attack,” she added, speaking via videoconference from Trinidad and Tobago.

FILES: DAILY MOTION / REUTERS
Israel, Palestinian 3-day Gaza truce crumbles by Reuters