Israel Withdraws Troops From Gaza As Cease-Fire Takes Effect

At least 32 underground tunnels have been destroyed and all Israeli troops have withdrawn from Gaza, Israeli Defense Forces said as a cease-fire began.

Updated — Aug. 5, 5:45 a.m. ET:

A Palestinian carries his belongings as he walks past a badly damaged building in Gaza on Aug. 5. Suhaib Salem / Reuters

An Israeli Defense Forces spokesman said Tuesday that 32 cross-border tunnels had been destroyed, completing Israel’s main mission ahead of a 72-hour cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza.

Israel said it had withdrawn all ground troops from Gaza by the start of the cease-fire at 8 a.m. Tuesday. The IDF said it would maintain defensive positions near the Gaza border.

Minutes before the truce took effect, a volley of rockets were fired into Israel. Air raid sirens wailed as far north as the Jerusalem area. Hamas claimed responsibility for the final salvo and no injuries were immediately reported.

The cease-fire was arranged by Egypt and agreed upon tentatively by Israel and Hamas on Monday. During the three-day truce, Egypt is set to host indirect talks in Cairo between the parties to establish a long-term agreement.

Bloodshed has continued throughout the month-long war, with an attack in Jerusalem yesterday making many fear the violence would spill over.

Several truces have been arranged and broken within hours of starting, including a truce on Friday.

The conflict has killed at least 1,800 Palestinians and 67 Israelis, surpassing the death tolls of other recent conflicts in 2009 and 2012.

Suhaib Salem / Reuters

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the truce, and released a statement via a spokesperson:

The Secretary-General welcomes the efforts leading to a new cease-fire as announced today. He commends the parties for committing to this cease-fire of 72 hours, to begin Tuesday, 5 August, at 8 a.m. local time, and calls on them to abide by it. Until the start of the cease-fire, the parties must exercise the utmost restraint.

The Secretary-General urges the parties to commence, as soon as possible, talks in Cairo on a durable cease-fire and the underlying issues. In this regard, he welcomes the proactive engagement of the Palestinian delegation under the leadership of President Abbas. Such talks are the only way to sustainably stop the violence, which has cost far too many lives, and to change the untenable and tragic status quo in Gaza. The United Nations stands ready to lend its full support to these efforts.​

Palestinians have been making the most of the truce, with fishing boats returning to the waters around Gaza this morning.

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