GAZA CITY: A 72-hour truce took root yesterday in Gaza, as Israeli and Palestinian delegations travelled to Cairo to try to extend the ceasefire and families picked through the debris of war.
The guns fell silent after 29 days of fighting, bringing relief to millions as both sides counted the cost from a conflict that killed 1,875 Palestinians and 67 people in Israel.
Officials on both sides confirmed they had sent small delegations to Cairo for talks to secure a permanent ceasefire after the three-day window closes.
But there is an uphill diplomatic battle ahead. Negotiators will likely confront conflicting demands on both sides.
The Palestinians insist Israel end its eight-year blockade of Gaza and open border crossings, while Israel wants Gaza fully demilitarised.
But after the longest period of quiet since fighting began, Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad Al Maliki, said he expected “the ceasefire to expand into another 72 hours and beyond”.
Al Malki said there was “clear evidence” of war crimes by Israel during its offensive in Gaza as he met International Criminal Court prosecutors to push for an investigation.
In southern Israel, there was relief but scepticism. Just minutes before the truce took hold, sirens wailed in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as Hamas fired 16 rockets over the border, while Israeli warplanes carried out at least five strikes on Gaza. As the truce went into force, Israel withdrew its troops, ending the ground operation aimed at destroying tunnels Gaza militants use to attack its territory. Medics in Gaza reported no new deaths or injuries since midnight. See also page 5