Residents and journalists venturing out in the Gaza Strip during the early hours of a shaky ceasefire spoke of dozens of decomposing bodies still under rubble caused by Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian enclave.
A short lull of fighting, before after a 72-hour ceasefire agreed by Israel and Hamas collapsed, gave a brief respite to people in the battered strip after more than three weeks of fighting that has killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians.
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Residents of the flashpoint district of Shujayea, east of Gaza City, were distraught as they returned to the neighbourhood shortly after the ceasefire began. Many found their homes completely flattened by recent violence.
Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Shujayea, said the destruction was “indescribable”.
“I’ve covered earthquakes, I’ve covered natural disasters, but I’ve never seen devastation like this … The smell of death is thick in the air”, he said.
The densely populated district of Shujayea came under a heavy Israeli assault on July 20 that left scores dead. Since then, it has been largely abandoned.
‘Cemetery not spared’
The situation in Beit Hanoun in Gaza’s northeast was as grim, with rubble covering most of the city’s streets. At least 10 buildings had been completely flattened by Israeli bombardment,
Al Jazeera’s Wael Dahdouh, reporting from there, said many other buildings had been severely damaged.
“Even the city’s cemetery had not been spared,” he said.
“Residents spoke of bones coming out of the ground of the destroyed cemetery due to the intensity of bombardment.”
In the village of Khuzaa, near Gaza’s Khan Younis in the south, the sound of shelling could be heard, just hours after the ceasefire officially started.
Ambulances were unable to enter the area to evacuate the injured as the roads were too dangerous,
Al Jazeera’s Tamer Meshal, who toured the devastated village, said he saw 20 bodies being pulled out the rubble.
“Many more bodies remain trapped here,” he said.