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Gazans survey devastation as truce broken

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The bodies of dozens of Palestinians were pulled from the ruins of bombed-out homes in Gaza on Saturday during a brief humanitarian truce that top diplomats meeting in Paris urged Israel and Palestinian faction Hamas to extend.

The death toll from the 19-day Israeli offensive on Gaza reached 1,032 on Saturday, according to the Gaza health ministry, as Israel extended the initial 12-hour ceasefire by four hours – shortly before it was due to end.

But the extended ceasefire, until midnight local time (21:00 GMT), was broken shortly after 8pm (17:00 GMT), with the Israeli military announcing three mortar rounds had been fired from Gaza into southern Israel. There was no damage from the rocket fire, and media reports said the military did not regard the incident as a major violation.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Gaza, said she had been told there was no agreement among Palestinian factions in Gaza on extending the ceasefire.

“We’ve had it confirmed that the al-Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas) has fired rockets at Israel. What they’re saying is a four-hour ceasefire at night doesn’t serve any purpose and the people will agree with them,” Dekker said.

More than halfway into the earlier truce, medics said 85 bodies had been retrieved from buildings ground into rubble across the Gaza Strip. Thirty-seven Israeli soldiers have also been killed, along with two Israeli civilians and a Thai foreign worker.

Palestinians ventured onto Gaza’s streets after the truce took effect, some eager to check on homes they had fled, others to stock up on food and other items while it was still safe to do so.

In many places they found astonishing devastation: apartment buildings levelled, entire blocks of homes completely wiped out by relentless Israeli bombardment.

For Sareya al-Massri, the truce provided a rare window to return home to collect clothes for her 10 children. “Nothing is left. We lost everything,” said al-Massri, wiping away tears with a white tissue as she surveyed what was once her three-storey home in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

Al-Massri fled her home last week under intense Israeli shelling. She is now living at Gaza City’s Beach refugee camp with her husband, children and grandchildren. The family’s house sits in ruins after it was hit by an Israeli F-16 missile. “My husband doesn’t yet know… I don’t know how I’m going to tell him,” she said. Al Jazeeera


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