Israel-Hamas truce holds in Gaza
AFP - Tuesday, January 20
GAZA CITY (AFP) - - A tenuous ceasefire held Monday in Gaza, where Palestinians dug out from the rubble and Hamas put on a show of defiance vowing to fight on after the Jewish state's deadliest war on the territory.
No air strikes, rockets or fighting was reported by either side for the first time since Israel's massive assault was launched on December 27.
The guns had fallen silent around Gaza after Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire from Sunday, and Hamas and other militant groups called a week-long truce of their own.
On the ground, the lull saw early efforts at a return to some sort of daily life amid the desolation, AFP reporters said.
Some stores raised their metal shutters and banks opened doors. Hamas police reappeared on the streets and directed traffic.
Many people were scavenging through the rubble to salvage what they could -- clothes, a television, books, tins of food.
Najette Manah, three small children in tow, clutched a box of rice that she found amid the debris of what was her home.
"We don't have homes anymore. I don't have anything anymore," she said.
However, Hamas's armed wing spat defiance at a televised news conference, saying it would rearm and demanding the Jewish state withdraw forces from the Palestinian enclave by Sunday or face more rocket attacks.
Abu Obeida, masked spokesman for the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, echoed his leader's proclamation that the 22-day operation was a "divine victory."
Hamas lost only 48 fighters, the spokesman said, after Israel reported killing more than 500 during Operation Cast Lead. He also claimed Israel lost "at least 80 soldiers". The Jewish state listed 10 soldiers killed.
Groups linked to the secular Fatah movement reported 37 combatants killed, Islamic Jihad 34, the Popular Resistance Committees 17 and the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine 13.
Gaza medics said more than 1,300 Palestinians have died.
Abu Obeida warned that Hamas's own ceasefire would last only a week unless Israel fully withdraws its troops from Gaza.
"We have given the Zionist enemy one week to pull out ... failing which we will pursue the resistance," he said.
"Our arsenal of rockets has not been affected and we continued to fire them during the war without interruption. We are still able to launch them and, thanks be to God, our rockets will strike other targets," in Israel.
He also predicted that Israel's efforts, backed by the United States and European leaders, to prevent Hamas from re-arming, would also fail.
"Let them do what they want. Bringing in weapons for the resistance and making them is our mission and we know full well how to acquire weapons.
"What we lost during this war in terms of military capability is small and we managed to compensate for most of it even before the war ended."
At an Arab summit in Kuwait, beleaguered Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas called for a national unity government between his Fatah movement and Hamas followed by simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections.
"What is needed and necessary now is that all Palestinians should meet to reach an agreement," Abbas said.
The split between the Palestinians in June 2007 after Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza was seen to have widened during the Gaza war. Abbas, whose writ has since been limited to the West Bank, severed all contacts with Hamas.
In Qatar last Friday, Hamas for the first time attended a regional summit as a representative of the Palestinians.
In Kuwait, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called on Arab leaders "to officially declare Israel as a terrorist state ... Ceasefire does not mean the end of aggression as the invading forces are still in Gaza."
Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah opened the meeting with a call for "practical steps to stabilise the ceasefire" while Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz announced a billion dollars to rebuild the battered territory.
The Palestinian statistics bureau reported that 4,100 homes were totally destroyed and 17,000 others damaged.
Amid the lull, Israel agreed to let nearly 200 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid into Gaza and to supply 400,000 litres of fuel, an official said.
Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon was set to make his first visit to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman told AFP.
The secretary general, on a Middle East tour seeking a permanent truce, also planned to visit the Israeli town of Sderot, five kilometres (three miles) from the Gaza border, which has been repeatedly rocketed by Palestinian militants.
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Relief agency workers throw a box of humanitarian supplies for to the citizens of the Gaza Strip in the border town of Rafah between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. A tenuous ceasefire held Monday in Gaza, where Palestinians dug out from the rubble and Hamas put on a show of defiance vowing to fight on after the Jewish state's deadliest war on the territory.
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