Israel pulls troops from Gaza as 72-hour cease-fire begins


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli army pulled its troops out of the Gaza Strip in observance of a 72-hour cease-fire as negotiations were set to begin on a permanent truce.

The Israeli troops will maintain a defensive line on the border with Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

In the hour before the cease-fire went into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday, nearly 20 rockets were fired at southern and central Israeli communities. One hit a home in the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. Several other rockets fell short of their targets, landing in Gaza. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted five of the rockets.

Following the withdrawal of troops, the IDF said it had destroyed all of the Hamas tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel — a total of 32 tunnels and their branches.

Israel was set on Tuesday to send a negotiating team to Cairo for talks on a permanent truce between Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza, according to reports.

Meanwhile, about 300 trucks carrying aid to Gaza, including medical supplies and food, were scheduled to enter Gaza at the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Tuesday.

In Gaza, medical teams gathered to search for bodies and survivors in areas of eastern Gaza that had been inaccessible due to airstrikes and shelling, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

At least 1,867 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 10,000 injured during Israel’s 29-day operation in Gaza, according to Maan. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

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