Israel announces ‘total withdrawal’ from Gaza
A three-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has taken effect in the Gaza Strip Tuesday as of 0500 GMT, Agence-France Press reported.
During the 72-hour truce, mediated by Egypt, Israel and Hamas are to hold indirect talks in Cairo on a broader deal that would prevent future cross-border violence.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Israeli army announced all forces will have withdrawn from the Strip by the start of the ceasefire , a military spokesman was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
“The Israel Defence Forces will be redeployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip and we will maintain those
defensive positions,” Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner told reporters.
The decision comes after the announcement of the destruction of cross-border tunnels by the Israeli army, Israel’s two main radio stations reported early Tuesday, according to Reuters news agency.
More than 32 of the underground passages, and dozens of access shafts, were located and blown up ahead of the Egyptian-mediated truce, Israel Radio and Army Radio said citing statements from the military.
U.N. Secretary-General welcomes ceasefire
These developments come after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged “utmost restraint” ahead of the new, 72-hour truce in the deadly almost month-old conflict, Agence France Press reported.
The warring parties reached the truce during talks in Cairo on Monday, only days after a similar three-day agreement for a ceasefire collapsed in a deadly wave of violence within hours of starting on Friday.
Ban urged both sides to “commence, as soon as possible, talks in Cairo on a durable ceasefire and the underlying issues,” his office said hours after the announcement was made.
“In this regard, he welcomes the proactive engagement of the Palestinian delegation under the leadership of President Abbas.”
The bloodshed, which has cost the lives of more than 1,800 Palestinians, mostly civilians in addition to 64 soldiers and three civilians in Israel, has sent tensions in the region soaring and garnered the Jewish state strong criticism.
Talks between the two sides are “the only way to sustainably stop the violence, which has cost far too many lives,” Ban said, promising the U.N.’s “full support.”
Envoys from all of the world body’s 193 member countries are due to meet in a full UN General Assembly on Wednesday to hear top officials report on the crisis.