Fragile Gaza ceasefire takes hold amid violence at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque

A long-awaited delivery of medical supplies reached Gaza on Friday, including vital blood bags and coronavirus vaccines

More than 90,000 people were displaced by the fighting in Gaza, the UN said, and more than 250 buildings were destroyed, including homes. AFP
More than 90,000 people were displaced by the fighting in Gaza, the UN said, and more than 250 buildings were destroyed, including homes. AFP

Israelis and Palestinians awoke to a fragile ceasefire on Friday after the 11-day war in Gaza, with celebrations marred by further violence at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound.

Gazans cheered and whistled as the pre-dawn truce came into effect, pouring out on to streets that had been deserted during the fighting. Fireworks lit up the sky over occupied East Jerusalem.

Both sides have claimed victory, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heralding the conflict as an “exceptional success”.

“We achieved our goals in the operation,” he said of the conflict, which has been the deadliest round of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants in seven years.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the militant group had successfully fought against Israel.

“We will rebuild what the occupation [Israel] destroyed and restore our capabilities,” he said.

Israel and Hamas have warned that their commitment to the ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, depends on their respective enemy maintaining the peace.

A senior Israeli military official said its strikes had set Hamas back years and damaged “most of their underground tunnel capabilities”.

Israel recorded more than 4,300 rockets fired from Gaza, while the military official said the armed forces had hit “thousands” of targets.

The Gaza war erupted on May 10 after weeks of violence around occupied East Jerusalem, with tension inflamed by Israeli police officers’ use of force at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound.

There were violent scenes once again at the holy site on Friday, where a paramedic said security forces had used rubber bullets.

Mohammad Fityani, Jerusalem spokesman for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, said medics had treated around 20 people.

Worshippers had packed into the mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, with some waving Palestinian flags. Police said officers had responded to a “riot” during which people threw rocks and petrol bombs.

Palestinians also clashed with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, with people wounded by live fire around Bethlehem, Hebron and Nablus, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Hours earlier, US President Joe Biden said Washington would maintain its “quiet and relentless diplomacy” to secure safety and security for Israelis and Palestinians.

“I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress and I’m committed to working for it,” the president said, while also pledging humanitarian aid to Gazans.

In the Palestinian coastal enclave, residents emerged from school shelters and damaged homes to assess the devastating impact of intense Israeli shelling.

More than 90,000 people were displaced by the fighting, the UN said, and more than 250 buildings were destroyed, including homes.

A long-awaited delivery of medical supplies reached Gaza on Friday, the World Health Organisation said, which included vital blood bags and coronavirus vaccines.

Sixty-six children were among the 243 people killed in Gaza, while more than 1,900 were wounded, according to the enclave’s health ministry.

Some 30 health facilities in Gaza were damaged or destroyed by the conflict, while bombs hit ambulance routes and a fuel shortage cut services at a cancer treatment centre, the WHO and other aid agencies said.

In Israel, restrictions on movement near the border were lifted as residents passed a day without sirens and shelters.

Ten people were killed by rocket fire in Israel and 119 injured, according to the country’s Magen David Adom emergency services.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Published: May 21, 2021 10:04 PM

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