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Gaza truce collapses

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A three-day humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza collapsed only hours after it began amid a deadly new wave of violence and the apparent capture by Hamas of an Israeli soldier.

Intensive shelling killed dozens of people in southern Gaza hours into the short-lived truce on Friday, with Hamas accusing Israel of breaking the ceasefire and Israel saying it was responding to rocket fire.

The skies over Gaza fell silent after the ceasefire announced overnight by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the longest one agreed upon since the conflict began on July 8.

Starting from 0500 GMT, the truce gave brief respite to people in the battered strip from fighting that has killed nearly 1,500 on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians, and 63 Israeli soldiers and three civilians on the other.

Within hours, air raid sirens warning of rocket fire were heard on the Israeli side of the border, and heavy shelling resumed in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, killing at least 35 people and wounding 100, medics said.

Shortly afterwards the Israeli army said the ceasefire was over and that it was searching for a soldier feared to have been captured in the enclave.

Israeli forces were pressing their “activities on the ground”, army spokesman Peter Lerner said, before the military announced that two soldiers had been killed and named the missing man as Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, 23.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office accused Hamas and other Gaza groups of “flagrantly violating” the ceasefire.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum countered, saying “it is the (Israeli) occupation which violated the ceasefire. The Palestinian resistance acted based on… the right to self defence.”

Kerry had said earlier that once the ceasefire was under way, Israeli and Palestinian representatives, including from Hamas, would begin talks in Cairo on a more durable truce.

Cairo truce talks

Egypt had invited Israel and the Palestinian Authority to send delegates to Cairo for longer-term truce talks, with the foreign ministry emphasising the “importance of both sides committing to the ceasefire so the negotiations can take place in a favourable atmosphere”.

But the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad later said Egypt was postponing the talks after news of the Israeli soldier’s capture.

Even so, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said a joint Palestinian delegation, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, would travel to Cairo on Saturday for ceasefire talks, despite the renewed fighting in Gaza.

“Inexcusable” silence

In a speech published after the ceasefire broke down, Saudi King Abdullah hit out at the “inexcusable” world silence over Israel’s “war crimes” in Gaza.

“We see the blood of out brothers in Palestine being shed in collective massacres, that have spared nobody, and in war crimes against humanity… all taking place under the eyes and ears of the international community… that has stood indifferently watching events in the whole region,” the king said.

“This silence is inexcusable” and will “result in a generation that rejects peace and believes only in violence,” he said.

The truce had come after the UN Security Council expressed “grave disappointment” that repeated calls for one had not been heeded, and demanded a series of humanitarian breaks to ease conditions for Gaza’s civilians. Al Jazeera

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