JNN 07 Aug 2014 Gaza : Israel pulled its ground forces out of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday in what many said was a historic defeat to the brave resistance and a complete catastrophe after a staggering 29-day incursion in which Israel suffered dozens of fatalities.
Israel started a 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas mediated by Egypt as a first step towards negotiations on a more enduring end to the month-old war.
Israeli armor and infantry withdrew from the Gaza Strip ahead of the truce, with a military spokesman saying their main goal of destroying cross-border infiltration tunnels had been completed. “Mission accomplished,” the military tweeted, according to Reuters.
However, Hamas denied its tunnels have been destroyed and called the Israeli incursion into Gaza, which has killed more than 1,800 civilians, a complete failure.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Islamist Hamas faction that rules Gaza, said Israel’s offensive in the densely populated, coastal enclave was a “100 percent failure”.
Israel sent officials to join talks in Cairo to cement a longer-term deal during the course of the truce.
Several previous truce attempts by Egypt and other regional powers, overseen by the United States and United Nations, failed to calm the worst Israeli-Palestinian fighting in two years.
An Israeli official said that in the hour before the ceasefire came into effect, the civilian airspace over Tel Aviv was closed as a precaution against Gaza rockets, and takeoffs and landings were delayed at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Minutes before the truce began at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT), Hamas launched a salvo of rockets, calling them revenge for Israel’s “massacres”. Israel’s anti-missile system shot down one rocket over Jerusalem, police said. Another hit a house in a town near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. There were no casualties.
Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,867 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed since fighting began on July 8, after a surge in Palestinian rocket launches.
Besides the loss of life, the war has cost both sides economically. Gaza faces a massive $6 billion price tag to rebuild devastated infrastructure. Israel has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism, other industry, and fears cuts in overall economic growth this year as well.
Rocket fire from Gaza continued throughout the war, and by the time Tuesday’s cease-fire went into effect, some 3,300 rockets had been fired at Israel, Lerner said. He estimated that Israeli forces destroyed another 3,000 rockets on the ground — but that Hamas has an equal number left for future use.
Lerner declined to say how many ground forces had been involved in the Israeli operation, though the military acknowledged calling up 86,000 reservists, including rotations, during the course of its Gaza operation.
PA to file war crimes charges against Israel at ICC
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said there was “clear evidence” of war crimes by Israel during its offensive in Gaza as he met International Criminal Court prosecutors in The Hague on Tuesday to push for an investigation.
The Palestinian Authority is going to sue Israel at the ICC, he said.
“Everything that has happened in the last 28 days is clear evidence of war crimes committed by Israel, amounting to crimes against humanity,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki told reporters after meeting prosecutors at the ICC on Tuesday.
“There is no difficulty for us to show or build the case. Evidence is there … Israel is in clear violation of international law,” he added.