Thousands of Gaza residents who fled the violence streamed back to devastated border areas during Saturday’s truce to find large-scale destruction.
Israel on Saturday extended a 12-hour humanitarian truce in the Gaza war by four hours, the longest lull in 19 days of Israel-Hamas fighting, as a Gaza health official said the overall number of Palestinians killed surpassed 1,000.
Thousands of Gaza residents who fled the violence streamed back to devastated border areas during Saturday’s truce to find large-scale destruction — fighting pulverized scores of homes, wreckage blocked roads and power cables dangled in the streets.
In the northern town of Beit Hanoun, Siham Kafarneh, 37, sat on the steps of a small grocery, weeping. The mother of eight said the home she had spent 10 years saving up for and moved into two months earlier had been destroyed.
“Nothing is left. Everything I have is gone,” she said.
Across Gaza, more than 130 bodies were pulled from the rubble Saturday, officials said. In southern Gaza, 20 members of an extended family were killed before the start of the lull when a tank shell hit a building where they had sought refuge, Palestinian health official Ashraf al—Kidra said.
Israel launched a major air campaign in Gaza on July 8 and later sent ground troops into the Hamas—ruled territory in an operation it said was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire and destroying cross—border tunnels used for attacks.
More than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed and more than 6,000 have been wounded over the past 19 days, al—Kidra said. Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.
More than 160,000 displaced Palestinians have sought shelter at dozens of United Nations schools, an eight-fold increase since the start of Israel’s ground operation more than a week ago, the U.N. said.
Israel says it is doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, including sending evacuation warnings to residents in targeted areas, and blames Hamas for putting civilians in harm’s way. Israel has lost 40 soldiers and two civilians, and a Thai worker also has been killed.