Aid arrives in Gaza as Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire holds

Medicine, food and fuel enter territory battered by 11 days of Israeli air strikes

People pass a rubble heap beside a building previously destroyed by an air-strike following a cease-fire reached after an 11-day war between Gaza's Hamas rulers and Israel, in Gaza City, Friday, May 21, 2021. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Humanitarian aid began to enter Gaza on Saturday, as a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Israeli-blockaded enclave entered its second day.

Convoys of lorries carrying aid began passing into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing after it was reopened by Israel, bringing much-needed medicine, food and fuel.

The UN's Central Emergency Response Fund said it had released $18.5 million for humanitarian efforts.

Tens of thousands of Gaza residents ventured out on Friday for the first time in days, checking on neighbours, examining devastated buildings, visiting the sea and burying their dead.

Rescuers there said they were working with meagre resources to reach any survivors still trapped under the rubble.

Nazmi Dahdouh, 70, said an Israeli strike had destroyed his home in Gaza City.

"We don't have another home. I'll live in a tent on top of the rubble of my home until it's rebuilt," the father of five said.

Israeli air strikes have killed 248 people – including 66 children – since May 10 and wounded 1,948, the Gaza health ministry has said. Fighters are also among those killed.

Large areas have been flattened and about 120,000 people have been displaced, according to Hamas, which controls Gaza.

The Israeli army said Gaza extremists fired more than 4,300 rockets towards Israel, of which 90 per cent were intercepted by its air defences.

Rockets killed 12 people in Israel, including one child, a teenager and an Israeli soldier, with one Indian and two Thai nationals also among those killed, Israeli authorities say. Another 357 people in Israel were wounded.

"Our message to the enemy is clear – if you come back, we'll come back too," a spokesperson for the armed groups in Gaza said at a press conference.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz warned that "the enemy" had no immunity.

Both sides claimed victory after the Egypt-brokered truce, which also included Gaza's second most powerful armed group, Islamic Jihad.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel's bombing campaign had killed "more than 200 terrorists" in Gaza, including 25 senior commanders, which he called an "exceptional success".

Hamas's political chief Ismail Haniyeh said the group had "dealt a painful and severe blow that will leave its deep marks" on Israel.

He also thanked Iran for "providing funds and weapons".

Iran itself praised a "historic victory" and reaffirmed Tehran's support for the Palestinian cause, while there were demonstrations in support of Palestinians in Jordan, Libya and elsewhere.

Egyptian state media said two Egyptian security delegations had arrived to monitor the deal.

World leaders welcomed the truce.

"I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress and I'm committed to working toward it," US President Joe Biden said.

Mr Biden pledged to help organise efforts to rebuild Gaza. He also stressed "we still need a two-state solution. It is the only answer, the only answer".

The EU echoed his call for a two-state solution to the conflict.

The US State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken would "meet with Israeli, Palestinian and regional counterparts in the coming days to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians".

Russia and China called for a return to peace talks, and UN chief Antonio Guterres said Israel and the Palestinians must now have "a serious dialogue to address the root causes of the conflict".

He called for "robust" reconstruction aid.

The flare-up began in Jerusalem on May 10, when Israeli  police fired stun grenades at Palestinian worshippers at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound – the third holiest site in Islam.

This prompted Hamas to launch rockets into Israel.

Israel's military responded with air strikes on what it described as military targets in Gaza – although Palestinian and international groups have accused it of hitting non-military sites in the densely populated strip.

Israel says it makes efforts to avoid civilian casualties, including by phoning residents to warn them of imminent strikes.

It blames Hamas for placing military sites in densely populated areas.

The unrest also fuelled violence between Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Security forces confronted Palestinian protesters in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. At least 25 Palestinians have been killed in those locations.

Israel said at least five of those killed had been attempting to attack its forces.

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