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Ceasefire holding in Gaza as international aid arrives, Palestinians celebrate victory

AFP-The ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian fighters in Gaza was holding on Saturday, as humanitarian aid began to enter the Israeli-blockaded enclave ravaged by 11 days of aerial bombardment by the Israeli military.

As thousands of displaced Palestinians returned to their homes, international focus turned to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, shattered by Israeli air strikes.

In Jerusalem, however, Israeli police fired stun grenades on protesters at the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound, in a sign of how volatile the situation remains, two weeks after similar violence sparked the worst Israeli assault on Gaza in years.

Clashes also broke out in several other parts of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, and at the crossing point between Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israeli police said, adding that hundreds of officers and border guards had been mobilised.

US President Joe Biden said he had told the Israelis to stop “inter-communal fighting” in Jerusalem, and pledged to help organise efforts to rebuild Gaza.

He also stressed “we still need a two-state solution. It is the only answer, the only answer.”

Convoys of lorries carrying aid began passing into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing after it was reopened by Israel, bringing much-needed medicine, food and fuel.

The UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund said it had released $18.5 million for humanitarian efforts.

Tens of thousands of Gaza residents ventured out on Friday for the first time in days, checking on neighbours, examining devastated buildings, visiting the sea and burying their dead.

Rescuers there said they were working with meagre resources to reach any survivors still trapped under the rubble.

Nazmi Dahdouh, 70, said an Israeli strike had destroyed his home in Gaza City.

“We don’t have another home. I’ll live in a tent on top of the rubble of my home until it’s rebuilt,” the father of five said.

In total, Israeli air strikes have killed 248 people including 66 children since May 10, and wounded 1,948 others, the health ministry has said. Fighters are also among those killed.

Large areas have been flattened and some 120,000 people have been displaced, according to Hamas, the group that rules Gaza.

The Israeli army said Gaza fighters fired more than 4,300 rockets towards Israel, of which 90 per cent were intercepted by its air defences.

The rockets claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child, a teenager and an Israeli soldier, with one Indian and two Thai nationals among those killed, Israeli authorities say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.

“Our message to the enemy is clear — if you come back, we’ll come back too,” a spokesperson for the armed groups in Gaza said at a press conference, while Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz warned that “the enemy” had no immunity.

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