Shelling kills dozens more as ceasefire broken

At least 35 Palestinians have been killed by shelling in Gaza and the Israeli military says one of its soldiers may have been abducted.

Israel and Hamas are accusing each other of breaking the ceasefire, which had been announced by the US and the UN and took effect at 8am local time yesterday. The fighting broke out less than two hours later.

Some 200 Palestinians were also injured in the “random” Israeli shelling of the Rafah area in southern Gaza.

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The death toll could rise as rescue workers continue to search for people buried under the rubble of several apartment blocks hit by shells. It is unclear whether the victims are civilians or militants.

The Israeli military, meanwhile, says one of its soldiers is “feared” abducted, without providing further details, and that Gaza militants have fired eight rockets and mortars at Israel since the ceasefire began, one of which was intercepted.

“Once again, Hamas and the terror organisations in Gaza have blatantly broken the ceasefire to which they committed, this time before the American Secretary of State and the UN Secretary General,” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement shortly after the fighting broke out.

Israel launched an aerial campaign against Gaza aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire on July 8 and later sent in ground troops to target launch sites and tunnels used by Hamas to carry out attacks inside Israel. The war has killed nearly 1,500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, and more than 60 Israelis, nearly all soldiers.

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At least four short humanitarian ceasefires have been announced since the conflict began, but each has been broken within a few hours by renewed fighting. Yesterday’s temporary ceasefire was the longest to be announced so far.

Under the ceasefire, Israeli troops on the ground in Gaza were to continue to destroy tunnels along the heavily guarded frontier, but only those that are behind Israeli defensive lines and lead into Israel.

Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas’ tunnel network “with or without a ceasefire”.

Soon after the ceasefire went into force, Gaza’s residents took advantage of the truce to return to their homes, many of which had been destroyed in the fighting. Some arrived on tuk-tuks –three-wheeled taxis - by car or on foot to retrieve their belongings.

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Egypt have issued a statement calling on the Western-backed Palestinian Authority and 
Israel to send negotiation teams to Cairo to discuss “all issues of concern to each party within the framework of the Egyptian initiative”.

Egypt had put forth a ceasefire proposal a week after fighting began last month.

Israel accepted the proposal, but Hamas, which deeply mistrusts Egypt following last summer’s overthrow of an Islamist government in Cairo, rejected it.