Israel-Gaza conflict: Death toll hits 1,000 amid 12-hour ceasefire

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GAZA CITY – The number of people killed in the conflict between Israel and Gaza has reached 1,000 as a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire to allow civilians to seek aid and evacuate to safer areas of the region continues today.

An Israeli government official has since been quotes as saying Israel is “leaning toward” extending the 12-hour humanitarian truce by at least four hours.

At least 85 bodies have been pulled from the rubble during the lull in fighting, bringing the Palestinian death toll to an estimated 985 since the conflict began 18 days ago.

Over 5,700 have been wounded and tens of thousands have been left displaced by shelling, according to officials. Forty Israelis have also been killed in cross-border fighting.

In the southern town of Khan Younis, 20 members of the same extended family, including at least 10 children, were killed by tank fire that hit a building on the edge of town, according to Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.

Hundreds of men marched in a funeral procession in Khan Younis Saturday afternoon, chanting “there is only God” while carrying the bodies.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) says the 12-hour pause began at 8am local time (5am GMT). During this time, it said it will continue to  “locate and neutralise” tunnels used by Hamas and warned the military “shall respond if terrorists choose to exploit” the lull to attack Israeli troops or civilians.

Hamas said that the group had agreed to the 12-hour lull to allow civilians to receive aid and find safer areas. Hundreds of Palestinians poured into the streets in the minutes after the truce took force, with many heading to banks which have briefly re-opened. Others inspected damage and stocked up on supplies.

Turkey lifted a ban on flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport three hours after the truce was announced, according to an announcement on Twitter.

The ceasefire was agreed upon by both sides after US Secretary of State John Kerry, currently visiting the region, failed to broker a seven-day truce as a first step toward a broader deal.

It comes as 19 Palestinians were killed in airstrikes overnight and two Israeli soldiers were also killed in Gaza.

Israel on Friday rejected international proposals for an extended ceasefire, a government source said, but Mr Kerry, speaking in Cairo, said no formal proposals had yet been put forward.

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