Gaza ceasefire holding as Egyptian mediators consult Hamas, Israel

A young Palestinian man searches through the rubble as a young girl peeks from the entrance of a house hit by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City, after a ceasefire brokered by Egypt between Israel and Hamas, on May 21, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
GAZA CITY — A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip held into Saturday as officials said Egyptian mediators conferred with the sides on securing longer-term calm.اضافة اعلان

The ceasefire began before dawn on Friday, ending 11 days of cross-border shelling exchanges that caused fresh devastation in Gaza, shook up Israel and raised international concern about a slide into wider regional conflict.

Egypt, which mediated the halt to the fighting with US support, sent a delegation to Israel at around noon on Friday to discuss ways of firming up the ceasefire, including with aid for Palestinians in Gaza, Hamas officials told Reuters.

The delegates have since been shuttling between Israel and Gaza, with talks continuing on Saturday, the officials said.

Despite confrontations between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem on Friday, there were no reports of Hamas rocket launches from Gaza or Israeli occupation forces on the enclave as of Saturday morning.

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Washington would work with the UN on bringing humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Gaza, with safeguards against funds being used to arm Hamas, which the West deems a terrorist group.

Humanitarian concerns

World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris said on Friday Gaza's health facilities were in danger of being overwhelmed by the thousands of injuries, and called for immediate access into Gaza for health supplies and personnel.

"How can the world call itself civilized?" Gaza resident Abu Ali asked, standing next to the rubble of a 14-storey tower block.

Gaza has for years been subjected to an Israeli blockade that restricts the passage of people and goods, as well as restrictions by Egypt.

Gaza medical officials put the Palestinian death toll from Israeli air and artillery strikes at 248, including 66 children.

Palestinian attacks killed 13 people in Israel, including two children, a soldier and three foreign workers, medics said.

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