Gaza residents used a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire on Saturday to stock up on supplies and survey the devastation from nearly three weeks of fighting, as they braced for a resumption of Israel’s war on Hamas amid stalled efforts to secure a longer truce. Nearly 900 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed over the past 18 days. Israel says it is trying to prevent civilian casualties and blames Hamas for putting them in harm’s way. But the densely populated strip – where 1.7 million people live beside the Mediterranean Sea – leaves little room for escape. The United Nations says civilians make up three-fourths of the dead and a majority of the wounded. Among the dead have been at least 192 children under 18, the U.N. says. In the northern town of Beit Hanoun, the main road was impassable in parts due to the debris from the damaged homes. Sitting outside a shop on the road near a pile of rubble, 37-year-old Siam Kafarneh was crying. The mother of eight said the home she had moved into two months earlier and spent 10 years saving for had been destroyed.
Nothing is left. Everything I have is gone.
Siam Kafarneh, 37-year-old Gaza resident
Israel has lost 37 soldiers and two citizens and a Thai worker has been killed. Previous humanitarian cease-fires have been cut short by a resumption of fighting, but the pause on Saturday appeared to be holding, as residents returned to the streets and packed into banks and grocery stores. The lull was agreed upon by both sides after Kerry failed to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal. Israel wants more time to destroy tunnels and rocket launching sites in Gaza, while the territory’s Hamas rulers want international guarantees that an Israeli and Egyptian border blockade will be lifted.