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Israeli troops withdraw from Gaza to observe 72-hour cease-fire

The Palestinian Health Ministry said 1,865 people have been killed in Gaza, with civilians counting for an estimated 70 percent of those casualties. Israel said they have had 64 soldiers killed and three civilians.
By Aileen Graef   |   Aug. 5, 2014 at 9:58 AM   |   Comments

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TEL AVIV, Israel, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Israeli forces withdrew their ground troops from the Gaza Strip Tuesday for a 72-hour cease-fire brokered by Egypt.

The United States and the United Nations expressed hope that the three-day truce would allow the two parties to come together to establish a more permanent peace. There is also concern that either Israel or Hamas will break the cease-fire prematurely, as has happened with previous cease-fires.

"The United States has been steadfast in our insistence on an end to rocket and tunnel attacks against Israel and an end to the suffering of the people of Gaza," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

The tunnels are the network of underground pathways Hamas created leading from Gaza into Israel in order to launch ambush attacks.

On Tuesday, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner tweeted that Israel had successfully destroyed 32 of the tunnels. In a subsequent tweet, the IDF announced it would abide by the 72-hour cease-fire, adding that "During this time, we will maintain defensive positions near the Gaza border."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that destroying the last of the tunnels does not necessarily mean an end to the Israeli military campaign.

"This operation will end only when quiet and security are restored to the citizens of Israel for a lengthy period," Netanyahu said Monday. "We struck a very severe blow at Hamas and the other terrorist organizations."

Israel has faced global condemnation for the number of Palestinian civilians killed in the conflict, including an airstrike on a U.N.-run shelter in Rafah over the weekend that killed at least 10 civilians.

Follow @AileenGraef and @UPI on Twitter.
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