Masked Hamas fighters brandishing assault rifles have paraded in Gaza City following the militant organisation’s 11-day conflict with Israel, as humanitarian aid heads to the enclave.
- Hamas leader in Gaza, Yehiyeh Sinwar, made a public appearance as militants paraded and brandished weapons
- Ceasefire talks are continuing with the aim of firming up the truce and long-term calm
- A 130-truck envoy filled with humanitarian aid and medical supplies is heading for Gaza
Saturday marked the first full day of a truce that ended the fourth Israel-Hamas conflict in just over a decade.
In the fighting, Israel unleashed hundreds of air strikes against militant targets in Gaza, while Hamas and other militants fired more than 4,000 rockets toward Israel.
The UN Security Council called on Israeli and Hamas leaders to maintain the ceasefire.
Dozens of Hamas fighters wearing military camouflage paraded past the mourning tent for Bassem Issa, a senior commander killed in the fighting.
The top Hamas leader in Gaza, Yehiyeh Sinwar, paid his respects in his first public appearance since the war began.
Israel bombed the house of Sinwar, along with that of other senior Hamas figures, as part of its attack on what it said was the group’s military infrastructure.
Israel’s defence minister, Benny Gantz, has said top Hamas figures remained targets.
Gaza City’s busiest commercial area, Omar al-Mukhtar Street, was covered in debris, smashed cars and twisted metal after a 13-floor building in its centre was flattened in an Israeli air strike.
Merchandise was covered in soot and strewn inside smashed stores and on the pavement. Municipal workers swept broken glass and twisted metal from streets and sidewalks.
“We really didn’t expect this amount of damage,” said Ashour Subeih, who sells baby clothes.
Both Israel and Hamas have claimed victory. There was a widespread expectation that the ceasefire would stick for now, but that another round of fighting at some point seems inevitable.
Underlying issues remain unresolved, including an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade, now in its fourteenth year, that is choking Gaza’s more than 2 million residents, and a refusal by the Islamic militant Hamas to disarm.
The fighting began on May 10, when Hamas militants in Gaza fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem.
The barrage came after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Heavy-handed police tactics at the compound and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers had inflamed tensions.
The fighting has further sidelined Hamas’ main political rival, the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, which oversees autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Hamas’ popularity seemed to be growing as it positioned itself as a defender of Palestinian claims to Jerusalem.
On Friday, hours after the ceasefire took effect, thousands of Palestinians in the al-Aqsa compound chanted against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his self-rule government.
“Dogs of the Palestinian Authority, out, out,” they shouted, and “The people want the president to leave.”
Ceasefire talks continue
Despite his weakened status, Mr Abbas will be the point of contact for any renewed US diplomacy, since Israel and the West, including the United States, consider Hamas a terrorist organisation.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is to meet with President Abbas and Israeli leaders when he visits in the coming week.
Mr Abbas is expected to raise demands that any Gaza reconstruction plans go through the Palestinian Authority to avoid strengthening Hamas.
Mr Abbas met on Saturday with Egyptian mediators, discussing the rebuilding of Gaza and internal Palestinian relations, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
An Egyptian diplomat said that two teams of mediators are in Israel and the Palestinian territories to continue talks on firming up a ceasefire deal and securing long-term calm.
The diplomat said discussions include implementing agreed-on measures in Gaza and Jerusalem, including ways to prevent practices that led to the latest fighting. He did not elaborate.
He was apparently referring to violence at the al-Aqsa Mosque and the planned eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in east Jerusalem.
The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss behind-the-scenes deliberations.
Aid heads to Gaza
Separately, a 130-truck convoy with humanitarian aid and medical supplies reached the Gaza border from Egypt on Saturday, according to a senior Egyptian official at the border crossing.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to reporters.
Across Gaza, an assessment of the damage to the territory’s already decrepit infrastructure began.
The ministry of public works and housing said that 769 housing and commercial units were rendered uninhabitable, at least 1,042 units in 258 buildings were destroyed and just over 14,500 units suffered minor damage.
The United Nations said about 800,000 people in Gaza do not have regular access to clean piped water, as nearly 50 per cent of the water network was damaged in the fighting.
UN Humanitarian co-ordinator for the Palestinian territories Lynne Hastings said the priority was to get food and medical care to people in Gaza.
“There are many needs obviously in a situation like this. Everything from shelter, healthcare, especially during COVID,” she said.
“We’re going to go and see the centre that was damaged, the laboratory that was damaged for COVID as well.”
Israel has said it was targeting Hamas’ military infrastructure, including a vast tunnel system running under roads and homes, as well as command centres, rocket launchers and the homes of commanders.
The Israeli military has said it was trying to minimise harm to civilians and accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields.
The Gaza Health Ministry says at least 243 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children, with 1,910 people wounded. It does not differentiate between fighters and civilians.
Twelve people were killed in Israel, all but one of them civilians, including a 5-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Friday that more than 200 militants were killed, including 25 senior commanders.
Islamic Jihad on Saturday gave a first account of deaths within its ranks, saying that 19 of its commanders and fighters were killed, including the head of the rocket unit in northern Gaza.