Partial pullout by Israel amid strikes; no headway in Egypt
The Israeli Army on Saturday gave a first indication it was ending operations in parts of Gaza, while continuing to bombard other areas ahead of fresh truce talks in Cairo.
As a Palestinian delegation flew to Egypt in search of a cease-fire, the Israeli army messaged residents of part of northern Gaza that it was “safe” to return home.
Witnesses in the north confirmed seeing troops leaving the area as others were seen leaving another flashpoint area in southern Gaza.
It was the first time troops had been seen pulling back since the start of Israel’s devastating 26-day operation, which has so far claimed more than 1,660 Palestinian lives.
Israel decided against sending a delegation to cease-fire talks with the Palestinians in Cairo.
Since midnight, over 86 people have been killed, the vast majority in Rafah, raising the overall toll to 1,676, emergency services spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra said, putting the number of wounded at more than 9,000.
The alleged capture of Second Lt. Hadar Goldin drew condemnation from the UN and the White House, which brokered the abortive truce and demanded his immediate release.
Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, acknowledged its militants had staged an ambush in which soldiers were killed, but denied holding the soldier, saying the attackers were missing and presumed dead.
“We have lost contact with the mujahedeen unit that was in that ambush, and we think that all the fighters in this unit were killed by Zionist shelling along with the soldier, who the enemy says is missing, assuming our combatants captured this soldier during the fighting,” it said,
Meanwhile, air strikes and tank fire continued pounding huge areas of southern Gaza into rubble, killing scores more people, as Hamas fighters kept up their fire.