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Israel pulls troops out of Gaza as efforts resume for long-term truce

August 5, 2014 at 6:09 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the Middle East, where a 72-hour cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is holding so far, after a month of fighting that killed hundreds of Palestinians and 67 Israelis.

And despite major differences, efforts to reach a longer-lasting deal have resumed. The latest try at stopping the shooting began at 8:00 a.m. local time. And, quickly, Palestinians in Gaza ventured out for food, water and supplies. They also began to survey the toll of a month of Israeli aerial bombardment and heavy ground fighting.

For many returning to Beit Hanoun in Northern Gaza, there was little left to see.

INSHIAH MASEER, Beit Hanoun Resident (through interpreter): I am destroyed. I have heart problems. And then I saw our house. We are all shocked. We don’t know what to do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just to the south, the Shaja’ia area of Gaza City was largely destroyed two weeks ago. Israel contended it was a Hamas base of operations in a civilian neighborhood, much of which is now gone.

MUNIR AL-ZEK, Gaza City Resident (through interpreter): What are we going to do? Should we sit in the streets? We don’t have homes to sit in anymore or anything.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Gazan officials say nearly 1,900 Palestinians died during the fighting. The Palestinian foreign minister pointed to the death and devastation today as he visited the International Criminal Court at The Hague. He said there is clear evidence of Israeli war crimes.

RIYAD AL-MALIKI, Foreign Minister, Palestinian National Authority: Nothing is compared to the atrocities, the carnage committed by the Israel against the innocent Palestinians in Gaza.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Palestinians would first have to be admitted as a member state before the court, a step that Israel has strongly opposed.

Back in Gaza, the last Israeli ground troops finished withdrawing today. They said the mission to destroy Hamas-built tunnels is largely completed, but they’re staying close to the border.

LT. COL. PETER LERNER, Spokesman, Israel Defense Forces: We are safeguarding the communities from potential more threats, potential tunnels that maybe we didn’t get. We are happy to report that over 31 or 32 tunnels have been destroyed, taking this threat off of the table.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the headlines were of the cease-fire, but some Israelis said it was just a Palestinian ploy.

NURIT TSARFATI, Jerusalem Resident (through interpreter): We should have hit them hard until we finished them. The cease-fire now is only in their interest.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Others took a softer line, but remained wary just the same.

ITZIK COHEN, Jerusalem Resident (through interpreter): The cease- fire is good for everyone. I prefer that we leave as long as Hamas doesn’t pull a trick on us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Just outside Jerusalem, at an Israeli settlement on the West Bank, a guard was stabbed repeatedly by a Palestinian man. It was the third such isolated attack over the last two days in the area.

MAYOR BENNY KASRIEL, Maale Adumim Settlement (through interpreter): What we see here is an escalation all over Jerusalem and the West Bank. The army must realize that it must send its soldiers to guard the communities until it is calm.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And on the diplomatic front, a Palestinian delegation arrived in Cairo as regional powers gathered to try to hammer out a lasting cease-fire. The Palestinian group included Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which controls the West Bank.

AZZAM AL-AHMAD, Fatah Representative (through interpreter): We want serious and real negotiations that would lead to meeting the demands of the current phase and would then help bring about the end of the occupation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There was late word that an Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo, too. Egyptian mediators expect to shuttle between the sides in the coming days.