A temporary ceasefire in the Gaza Strip has entered its second day as residents assess the damage after nearly a month of fighting between Israel and Palestinian armed groups, and negotiators arrive in Cairo for talks on a lasting truce.
The 72-hour ceasefire, which came into effect on Tuesday and carried past midnight into Wednesday, has brought tentative relief to millions on both sides after violence that killed 1,875 Palestinians and 67 people in Israel.
Riyad al-Maliki, Palestinian foreign minister, said he expected “the ceasefire to expand into another 72 hours and beyond”.
Israeli and Palestinian delegations are now set for what are expected to be tough talks aimed at securing a permanent ceasefire after the three-day window closes.
Officials on both sides confirmed sending small teams to the Egyptian capital, but they bring conflicting demands and face an uphill diplomatic battle ahead.
The Palestinians insist Israel end its eight-year blockade of Gaza and open border crossings, while Israel wants Gaza fully demilitarised.
The US is also due to participate in the Cairo talks.
“We are determining at what level and in what capacity and when,” Jen Psaki, US State Department spokeswoman, said in Washington.
In Gaza City, people came out in numbers on Tuesday afternoon, children played on the street and the beach, and some shops reopened for the first time in days, AFP news agency reported.
Others ventured home for the first time only to witness scenes of devastation.
At a bullet-riddled girls’ school, an Israeli flag and an anti-Hamas slogan had been etched on the wall of a classroom, and discarded ration packs and tuna cans labelled in Hebrew littered the floor.
‘Clear evidence’ of war crimes
Shortly after the start of the humanitarian ceasefire, Maliki visited The Hague and said there was “clear evidence” of war crimes by Israel during its offensive in Gaza.
Maliki met International Criminal Court prosecutors on Tuesday to push for an investigation.
Last week, the UN launched an inquiry into human rights violations and crimes alleged to have been committed by Israel during its offensive, given the far higher toll of civilian deaths and destruction on the Palestinian side.
“Everything that has happened in the last 28 days is clear evidence of war crimes committed by Israel, amounting to crimes against humanity,” Maliki said.
“There is no difficulty for us to show or build the case. Evidence is there for people to see and collect. Israel is in clear violation of international law.”
Israel said it did its utmost to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza but accused Hamas of putting its people in harm’s way by launching rockets from within densely populated districts.