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Gaza Live: Nearly 1900 dead as Israel, Hamas begin three-day ceasefire

2:23 pm: British Muslim minister quits government over Gaza policy

A British minister who was the first Muslim woman to sit in the Cabinet has resigned over the British government's policy on Gaza, she said Tuesday.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a minister at the Foreign Office and minister for faith and communities, wrote on Twitter: "With deep regret I have this morning written to the Prime Minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza."

Warsi's parents were Pakistani immigrants and she was made a member of the House of Lords in 2007.

She was appointed to Cameron's Cabinet when his coalition government took power in 2010 and while she initially had a high media profile, her star had dimmed in recent years.

She was shuffled out of the full Cabinet, the powerful inner circle of government ministers, in 2012.

Cameron's coalition government has drawn criticism, including from the opposition Labour party, for not taking a tougher line against Israel over operations in Gaza.

He said on Monday that the UN was "right" to condemn the shelling of a UN school in Gaza which killed 10 people on Sunday but declined to say whether he thought it breached international law.

1:09 am: All Israeli troops withdraw from Gaza

Israel has withdrawn all its forces from the Gaza Strip, wrapping up a ground operation launched on July 17, a military spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

"There were a number of forces inside ... but all of them have left" the Palestinian territory, General Moti Almoz told army radio.

The withdrawal of troops, which began on Saturday, was completed before the start of a 72-hour truce agreement which went into effect at 0500 GMT.

"We are, according to the government's directive, implementing a 72-hour ceasefire this morning from 8:00 am," Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said.

"The IDF (army) will be deployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip.

"The IDF will respond if it is attacked."

12:39 pm: Palestine to push for war crimes charges against Israel in ICC

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki will visit the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands on Tuesday as he pushes for a war crimes case against Israel after nearly a month of fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Last week, the United Nations launched an inquiry into human rights violations and crimes alleged to have been committed by Israel during the offensive, amid a far higher civilian death toll on the Palestinian side.

The ICC, created more than a decade ago to prosecute individuals for war crimes, is a court of last resort, meaning that it will only intervene when a country is found to be unwilling or unable to carry out its own investigation.

Israel is not a member of the ICC and the court therefore has no jurisdiction to investigate. Jurisdiction could be granted in a UN Security Council resolution, but Israel's ally the United States would have the power to block any such proposal.

Amnesty International on Monday appealed to the United States to halt transfers of fuel shipments to the Israeli military. It said there was mounting evidence of war crimes from both Israel and the Palestinians, adding that an ICC investigation was crucial in stopping the cycle of violations.

In the Netherlands, Malki is due to visit the ICC in the morning, the Palestinian delegation in The Hague said. He will later meet with Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans and give a news conference.

11:18 am: Ceasefire begins as Hamas fires salvos into Israel

An Egyptian-mediated truce halting the Gaza war went into effect on Tuesday following a surge in cross-border rocket fire into Israel by the Palestinians Islamist group Hamas.

The ceasefire, which is meant to last 72 hours and allow for negotiations in Cairo on a more durable cessation of hostilities, began at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT).

Minutes before, air raid sirens sounded throughout southern Israel and as far north as outlying areas of Jerusalem, triggered by a volley of rockets that Hamas claimed responsibility for. There was no immediate word of casualties.

10:35 am: Three-day truce takes effect

A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas meant to last at least three days has taken effect in the Gaza Strip.

The truce was agreed to by both sides in the month-long war. It started at 8 am (0500 GMT) on Tuesday.

During the 72-hour truce, Israel and Hamas are to hold indirect talks in Cairo on a broader deal that would prevent future cross-border violence.

10:27 am: Israeli army announces total retreat from Gaza ahead of ceasefire

Israeli ground forces will completely withdraw from the Gaza Strip ahead of an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire set to begin at 0500 GMT, a military spokesman said.

Israeli soldiers patrol outside the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters image

Israeli soldiers patrol outside the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters image

"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.-Reuters

10:00 am: Israel says mission to destroy tunnels in Gaza completed

Israeli ground forces have completed their main Gaza war mission of destroying cross-border tunnels dug by Palestinian guerrillas, Israel's two main radio stations reported on Tuesday, citing briefings from the military.

At least 32 of the underground infiltration passages, and dozens of access shafts, were located and blown up ahead of an Egyptian-mediated truce due to take effect later in the day, Israel Radio and Army Radio said.-Reuters

9:19 am: Hamas accepts 72-hour ceasefire with Israel: spokesman

Hamas has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a 72-hour ceasefire with Israel set to begin Tuesday, a spokesman for the Islamist de facto rulers of Gaza said.

"Hamas informed Cairo a few minutes ago of their approval of the truce for 72 hours from tomorrow," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

The Islamic Jihad, which along with Israel and Hamas is to attend truce talks in Cairo, confirmed the imminent end to fighting.

"The ceasefire is arriving in the coming hours," the militant movement's deputy leader Ziad al-Nakhale said in a statement.

8:45 am: Israel accepts 72-hour Gaza truce: Israeli official

Israel has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip to begin Tuesday, an Israeli official confirmed to AFP.

"Israel will be honouring the ceasefire from tomorrow (Tuesday) at 8:00am (0500 GMT)," the official said late Monday on condition of anonymity.

The official confirmed an Israeli delegation would be heading to Cairo for talks.

According to the official, the Egyptian proposal had already been accepted by Israel three weeks ago.

"It was Hamas that rejected it, it is Hamas that is responsible for the violence we've seen over the past three weeks," he said.

The official noted that both sides had agreed to a three-day truce on Friday, but asserted that "Hamas made commitments and didn't keep them," referring to a Hamas attack Israel said took place after the Friday truce had began in which three soldiers were killed.

"We'll be there watching very closely tomorrow morning (Tuesday) if Hamas doesn't honour the ceasefire," he said.

8:24 am: Gaza crisis moves to full UN Assembly

With criticism mounting of UN inaction in the Gaza conflict, envoys from all 193 countries of the United Nations will meet Wednesday to hear top officials report on the crisis.

The meeting of the UN General Assembly was requested by Arab countries who are pushing for a toughly-worded resolution to be adopted by the Security Council.

Top UN officials will brief ambassadors including Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, who has said Israel's offensive in Gaza could amount to war crimes.

United Nations General Assembly. Reuters

United Nations General Assembly. Reuters

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Pierre Krahenbuhl, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Middle East envoy Robert Serry and the head of humanitarian relief in Gaza, Kyung-wha Kang, are also to speak to the assembly, the Ugandan presidency of the General Assembly said.

The move by Arab countries to push for a General Assembly meeting on Gaza follows growing criticism that the Security Council has failed to take a strong stand to press Israel and Hamas to stop the fighting.

International alarm has grown over the soaring death toll, with more than 1,800 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians, since the conflict began on July 8. A total of 67 Israelis have died.

Jordan has circulated a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for an immediate ceasefire and an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, but the document has yet to come up for formal discussion.

The 15-member Council adopted a statement on July 27 calling for a ceasefire and expressing support for Egypt's mediation efforts after the United States dropped its reservations that such a text would single out Israel.

8:18 am: South Africa's Zuma 'appalled' by Israel campaign

South African President Jacob Zuma voiced outrage Monday over civilian deaths in Israel's campaign in the Gaza Strip but distanced himself from calls to expel the Israeli ambassador.

"We are outraged by the killing of civilians by Israel, some in United Nations shelters," Zuma told a news conference in Washington where he was attending a US-Africa summit.

"We call upon all sides to lay down arms and work towards a negotiated solution that will lead to an internationally recognized and supported two-state solution," he said.

Zuma also condemned the killings of Israeli civilians by the Palestinian militant movement Hamas and voiced skepticism over calls within his African National Congress party for the Pretoria government to kick out Israel's ambassador.

"It cannot just be a quick thing," Zuma said when asked about South Africa's response to the Gaza crisis.

Zuma, without explicitly ruling out the expulsion of the ambassador, said that South Africa needed to act in a way "that will benefit both countries of the Middle East in the long end, and as a country we do have to take a bigger picture."

South Africa has frequently been critical of the treatment of Palestinians by Israel, which had cooperative relations with the former apartheid regime.

8:03 am: Israel says more Gaza missions despite destroying tunnels

The Israeli army said on Monday that it still has many missions to carry out in Gaza despite destroying all of the known tunnels militants use to attack its territory.

"We will not leave; we will stay in the Gaza Strip; there are many more missions to complete," army spokesman Moti Almoz said on Channel 2 television.

"All of the tunnels we have located have been destroyed," he said, adding however that "talking about the end of the mission against the tunnels doesn't mean talking about an end to the Gaza mission."

Israel launched the military operation against rocket-firing militants in Gaza on July 8, and nine days later it sent ground troops into the enclave to destroy a network of tunnels militants use to attack its territory.

7:49 am: Britain reviewing Israel arms export licences

Britain is reviewing licences to sell arms and military goods to Israel in the light of ongoing operations in Gaza, Prime Minister David Cameron's office said Monday.

Britain's government has approved licences for the sale of military goods to Israel worth at least £42 million ($71 million, 53 million euros) since 2010, according to government figures obtained by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

These are mostly to supply weapons control and targeting systems and components for ammunition, drones and armoured vehicles.

"We are currently reviewing all export licences to Israel to confirm that we think they are appropriate," said a Downing Street spokeswoman.

"Clearly the current situation has changed compared to when some licences will have been granted, and we're reviewing those existing licences against the current situation, but no decisions have been taken beyond going back again and reviewing," the spokeswoman said.

The decision to review the contracts was taken last week, she added.

CAAT spokesman Andrew Smith welcomed the review but called for an immediate embargo on the selling of military equipment to Israel, insisting the government "should never have agreed the licences in the first place".

"It not only facilitates, but signals approval to the actions of the Israeli government," he added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that the country will not stop its military campaign in Gaza until "security is established for the citizens of Israel".

The operation began on July 8 with an air campaign and expanded into a ground operation on July 17 with the aim of destroying a network of tunnels used for cross-border attacks.

More than 1,800 Palestinians and 64 Israeli soldiers have died in Gaza, and three civilians in Israel, raising tensions across the region and drawing condemnation from around the world.

Cameron said earlier Monday that the United Nations was "right" to condemn the shelling of a UN school in Gaza which killed 10 people but declined to say whether he thought it breached international law.

The opposition Labour Party in recent days has criticised Cameron for not taking a tougher line against Israel.

7:00 am: HRW: Israel killed fleeing Gazans in likely war crime

Human Rights Watch on Monday accused Israel of killing civilians as they attempted to flee a stricken neighbourhood of Gaza, in what it said would amount to a war crime.

In a report that cited Palestinians who managed to get out of Khuza'a, HRW said the attacks on the town near the southern city of Khan Yunis occurred at the end of July.

"Israeli forces in the southern Gaza town of Khuza'a fired on and killed civilians in apparent violation of the laws of war in several incidents between July 23 and 25," said the New York-based watchdog.

A Palestinian boy cries as he comforts his father wounded by Israeli shelling near a market in Shejaia. Reuters Image

A Palestinian boy cries as he comforts his father wounded by Israeli shelling near a market in Shejaia. Reuters Image

"Deliberate attacks on civilians who are not participating in the fighting are war crimes."

Civilians faced "grave dangers" in Khuza'a, including repeated shelling, lack of access to medical care, and coming under attack from the Israelis as they attempt to flee to Khan Yunis.

The report pointed out that while Israeli forces had warned people to leave Khuza'a prior to July 21, "the failure of civilians to abide by warnings does not make them lawful targets of attack."

"Warning families to flee fighting doesn't make them fair targets just because they're unable to do so, and deliberately attacking them is a war crime," said HRW's Sarah Leah Whitson.

--End of updates for August 5--

09:25 pm: Ceasefire slows Gaza war as Israeli bus attacked 

An Israeli-declared temporary cease-fire and troop withdrawals slowed violence in the Gaza war Monday, though an attack on an Israeli bus that killed one person in Jerusalem underscored the tensions still simmering in the region.

Several ceasefires have broken down during the 3½-week war — including Friday when an internationally negotiated truce collapsed amid violence and mutual recrimination between Israel and Hamas.

But with Hamas rocket fire tapering off over the last 24 hours and Israel's ground operation in Gaza winding down, violence in a war that officials say has killed more than 1,880 Palestinians and over 60 Israelis appeared — for the moment — to be waning.

The lull was broken by the Jerusalem assault, which saw a man ram the front end of a construction excavator into an Israeli bus. Police described the incident as a "terrorist attack," indicating Palestinian involvement.

The attack occurred on a main thoroughfare near Jerusalem's light-rail line. The area is located near the unofficial line between Jewish West Jerusalem and east Jerusalem, the section of the city captured by Israel in 1967 and which is home to most of the city's Arab population. Israeli media said the attacker came from an Arab area of the city.

Israel's Channel 10 TV showed cellphone video of what it said was the attack, with the yellow excavator slamming its large shovel into the bus. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a police officer in the area opened fire and killed the attacker. A pedestrian also was killed, said Jerusalem district police chief Yossi Piranti.

1:05 pm: Dead children end up in ice cream freezers as morgues run out of space

Even as the UN expressed outrage after another deadly strike on one of its schools on Sunday, pictures tweeted by doctors and journalists from Gaza, showing bodies of children in ice cream freezers have sparked outrage on the social media site.

The body of two-and-a-half-year-old Palestinian girl Raghad Massoud, killed in an Israeli air strike, is seen inside an ice-cream freezer. Reuters image

The body of two-and-a-half-year-old Palestinian girl Raghad Massoud, killed in an Israeli air strike, is seen inside an ice-cream freezer. Reuters image

With Rafah's main Najjar hospital closed after being hit in a recent strike, only two clinics were functioning, with medics rapidly running out of space to store the growing pile of bodies.

In one, an AFP correspondent witnessed the bodies of four small children packed into an ice cream freezers. Al-Jazeera journalist Femi Oke tweeted:

12:59 am: Israeli strike kills militant leader in Gaza

An Israeli airstrike killed a militant leader in the Gaza Strip on Monday, just hours ahead of an expected seven-hour truce announced by Israel that was meant to open a "humanitarian window" for aid.

The Islamic Jihad group — a close ally of Gaza's militant Palestinian Hamas rulers — said its commander in the northern part of the strip, Daniel Mansour, died when the Israeli strike hit his home just before dawn Monday.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group was skeptical about the Israeli truce announcement. "We do not trust such a calm and call on our people to take caution," Zuhri said.

12:42 am: Israel begins observing 7-hour humanitarian lull in Gaza

Israeli troops began observing a unilateral seven-hour humanitarian lull in most of the Gaza Strip from 0700 GMT on Monday.

But Hamas, the de facto rulers of Gaza, said they would not be reciprocating the lull and warned people "to take the utmost caution" when venturing out.

The army said the temporary truce would take place everywhere except to the east of Rafah on the Egyptian border where troops were still present and clashes were ongoing.

10:00 am: 10 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza: medics

Ten Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes throughout the Gaza Strip early Monday, medical sources said, raising the Palestinian toll from the four-week conflict between Israel and Hamas to 1,822.

Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said five people were killed in Jabalia in the north, three in the Gaza City neighbourhoods Zeitun and Sheikh Radwan, one in Nuseirat in central Gaza, and a child was killed in the southern city Rafah.

The Israeli army has struck at 4,686 targets in the Gaza Strip since the conflict began on July 8.

In the same period, 2,560 rockets and mortar shells fired by Gaza militants have hit the Jewish state, a military spokeswoman said, with another 556 rockets intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system.

Two Israeli civilians and a Thai farm worker were killed by Gaza projectiles, with 64 soldiers killed in clashes and shellings in and around Gaza.

--Updates end for August 2--

6:45 pm: Israel army says 'safe' to return to part of north Gaza

The Israeli army on Saturday informed residents of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza that it was "safe" to return to their homes, as witnesses said troops were seen withdrawing from the area.

"Messages have been conveyed to residents of the northern Gaza Strip that they may return to the Beit Lahiya area," an army statement said, with a spokeswoman indicating the message had been relayed to authorities in the Palestinian enclave.

"They have been informed it is safe for civilians to return to Beit Lahiya and Al-Atatra," the spokeswoman told AFP, in what was understood to be a confirmation that troops had stopped operating there.

Witnesses in Al-Atatra, which is part of Beit Lahiya, reported seeing troops pulling back, in a move mirrored in the south, where residents said the soldiers had withdrawn from villages east of Khan Yunis, close to the Israeli border.

The announcement came as unconfirmed media reports said Israel would not be sending a delegation to truce talks in Cairo, with some suggesting the pullback could signal the start of a unilateral Israeli withdrawal.

3:10 pm: Sisi says Egypt truce plan 'real chance' to end Gaza clashes

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday an Egyptian truce plan provided a "real chance" to end the Gaza conflict, stressing the need for its speedy implementation.

"The Egyptian proposal is the real chance to find a solution to the crisis in Gaza and to end the bloodshed," Sisi told a joint news conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

"Time is decisive, we have to take advantage of it quickly to douse the fire in the (Gaza) Strip... and to stop the bloodshed of Palestinians."

A Palestinian delegation is expected in Cairo on Saturday to discuss a truce, a day after a temporary ceasefire collapsed with Israel and Hamas blaming each other.

2:06 pm: US Congress approves funding for Israel's Iron Dome

The US Congress on Friday approved $225 million for Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, credited with destroying missiles fired by Hamas before they could reach their targets.

House of Representatives approved the funding by 395-8 in a late Friday vote. The Senate earlier approved the measure unanimously before the start of its five week summer recess.

The measure now awaits President Barack Obama's signature.

The emergency spending funds, which adds to the US deficit, will restock Israel's Iron Dome system with interceptor missiles.

The funding is part of the administration's request of $3.1 billion for military assistance to Israel, the world's largest beneficiary of US foreign aid.

Congress appropriated $235 million to Iron Dome last year.

The White House had originally requested about $176 million for the system for 2015, but lawmakers increased the amount. Congress often increases funding for Israeli security projects sought by the president.

12:00 pm: 101 Palestinians killed since Israeli soldier disappeared

Ten Palestinians were killed in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, early Saturday, bringing the death toll to 101 since an Israeli soldier went missing in the area the previous day, medics said.

Intensive Israeli bombardment near the southern city of Rafah, in the area where Israeli Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin went missing Friday, left a total of 34 dead in Rafah and Gaza city since midnight Friday, including the latest 10 victims, the sources said

11:30 am: No info about missing Israel soldier, says Hamas

Hamas' armed wing on Saturday said it had no information on the whereabouts of Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin who disappeared in the southern Gaza Strip the previous day.

"The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades has no information on this soldier. We have lost contact with one of our combatant groups, which was fighting in the sector where the soldier went missing and it is possible that our fighters and this soldier were killed," the group said in a statement. - AFP

Updates for 1 August end

22:35 pm: Kerry urges Qatar, Turkey to press for release of abducted Israeli soldier

US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Qatar and Turkey to use their influence for the release of the abducted Israeli soldier, according to a report in The New York Times.

Hamas, which has security control over the Gaza Strip, must immediately and unconditionally release the missing Israeli soldier, and I call on those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message,” Kerry said in a statement.

The international community must now redouble its efforts to end the tunnel and rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israel and the suffering and loss of civilian life,” he added.

10:26 pm: UN chief demands immediate release of abducted Israeli soldier

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded that an Israeli soldier captured in Gaza be released immediately and condemned "in the strongest terms" the reported ceasefire violation by Hamas, according to AFP.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate release of the abducted Israeli soldier. AP

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate release of the abducted Israeli soldier. AP

AFP reported that Ban called on Israel and Hamas to show restraint and return to the 72-hour truce that collapsed after two soldiers were killed and a third reportedly captured near the southern city of Rafah.

"The secretary-general demands the immediate and unconditional release of the captured soldier," his spokesman said in a statement.

Ban was "shocked and profoundly disappointed" by the renewed violence and warned that if reports of the attack on Israeli soldiers were confirmed "this would constitute a grave violation of the ceasefire," the statement added.

"Such moves call into question the credibility of Hamas's assurances to the United Nations."

6:29 pm: US condemns 'barbaric' Hamas ceasefire collapse

The United States blamed Hamas for the breakdown of a ceasefire with Israeli forces, accusing the Palestinian militant group of launching a "barbaric" attack to capture an Israeli soldier, reported AFP.

"This is an outrageous action and we look to the rest of the world to join us in condemning it," White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told MSNBC television.

6:25 pm: Palestinian team still headed for Cairo: Mahmoud Abbas

A joint Palestinian delegation, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, is to travel to Cairo on Saturday for ceasefire talks despite the renewed fighting in Gaza, president Mahmoud Abbas's office announced, according to AFP.

"Abbas has formed the delegation, which will head Saturday for Cairo whatever the circumstances," his office said in a statement, giving the names of the 12-member delegation.

They included Abbas aide Azzam al-Ahmed, Palestinian Authority security head Majed Faraj, several senior Hamas officials including Mussa Abu Marzuq, and a leading member of Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhale.

The statement said they would discuss with Egyptian officials the "next steps" in trying to reach a ceasefire in a bloody Gaza war that has killed nearly 1,500 Palestinians in 25 days, as well as 61 Israeli soldiers and 3 civilians inside Israel.

The announcement came after Islamic Jihad said Egypt was delaying talks on a long-term truce.

5:53 pm: Israeli army identifies abducted soldier as 23-year-old Second Lieutenant

The Israeli army said two soldiers were killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip Friday and named a third man feared captured as a 23-year-old Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, according to AFP.

Meanwhile, Saudi King Abdullah said that the world's silence on Israel 'war crimes' is 'inexcusable.' Moreover, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said that a joint Palestinian team is headed for Cairo, irrespective of 'whatever (the) circumstances' prevailing.

5:33 pm: Israeli shelling kills 50 Palestinians

Reuters reported that the number of Palestinians killed when Israeli forces shelled southern Gaza on Friday has risen to 50, the Gaza health ministry said.

Medhat Abbas, director of the Ministry of Health, said: "Over 50 were killed and 220 wounded in Rafah."

Moreover, two Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting, said the Israel army, according to AFP.

5:05 pm: Israel and Hamas confirm abduction of Israeli soldier

Both Israel and Hamas have confirmed that an Israeli soldier was abducted by Hamas. Meanwhile, Egypt said that the ceasefire talks have been postponed, according to a tweet by The Times reporter Bel Trew.

Israel says the soldier was captured at 9:30 am whereas Hamas confirmed the soldier was captured by them before the beginning of the ceasefire at 8:00 am, according to a tweet posted by NBC News correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin.

Meanwhile, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) also confirmed the abduction of the soldier and tweeted that an extensive search was on to locate the abducted soldier.

4:38 pm: Ceasefire was violated over the capture of a soldier, says Israel

The Israeli army said the fragile three-day ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants was over just hours after it started, blaming it on the capture of a soldier.

AFP said that in response to a question from journalists about whether the truce had ended, army spokesman Peter Lerner said: "Yes. We are continuing our activities on the ground."

"Our initial indications suggest a soldier has been abducted by terrorists in an incident where terrorists breached the ceasefire."

3:33 pm: Shelling kills at least 30 people in south Gaza as Israel resumes operations

Intensive Israeli shelling killed at least 30 people and wounded more than 150 in southern Gaza on Friday, medics said, shattering a fragile truce only hours after it began.

AFP correspondents said the artillery barrage of the southern city of Rafah was ongoing, preventing medics from recovering the dead and wounded, after the army said Gaza militants had resumed rocket fire against Israel.

3:12 pm: 40 dead as Israel resumes shelling

Israeli shelling near the southern Gaza town of Rafah killed at least 40 people on Friday, the local hospital said, as a ceasefire that went into effect only hours earlier crumbled.

Israel accused Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups of violating the US- and UN-mediated truce, but did not elaborate, amid Israeli media reports that gunmen had fired at Israeli soldiers in the Rafah area.-Reuters

2:55 pm: Washington Post captures Israeli airstrike as it happened

The Washington Post today uploaded a picture on it's website showing an Israeli airstrike just before shells hit a building in Gaza, as Twitter was left abuzz with the visual dose of an airstrike.

The picture shows a projectile falling from the sky as people duck and seek cover. The accompanying piece describes the scene at al-Jalla Street on the Gaza Strip just before it was struck by Israel. Washington Post correpondent Sudarsan Raghavan writes:

"Suddenly, a loud boom, and then, a puff of smoke shaped like a mushroom. The building had been hit. But no one left. They knew this was just the beginning."

Read the piece and view the photograph here.

2:20 pm: Israel accuses Hamas of violating truce

Israel on Friday accused Gaza militants of breaking a nascent ceasefire hours after it began.

"Once again the terror organisations in Gaza flagrantly violating the ceasefire to which they committed themselves, this time to the US Secretary of State and the UN Secretary General," a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said, without pointing to a specific incident.

1:23 pm: Ceasefire violated as Israeli tank fire kills 8

A three-day Gaza ceasefire went into force on Friday as diplomats worked to broker a lasting truce in the 25-day-old Israel-Hamas war, but Gaza officials said the lull was broken after nearly two hours when Israeli tank fire killed at least eight Palestinians.

Haaretz correspondent Barak Ravid tweeted quoting an unnamed official who confirmed that the ceasefire was over.

The ceasefire, announced by the US and the UN hours earlier, took effect at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) Friday after heavy fighting that killed 17 Palestinians and five Israeli soldiers. Israel and Hamas agreed to halt all aggressive operations and conduct only defensive missions. But US Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned there were "no guarantees" that the lull would bring an end to the war, now in its fourth week.

Shortly before 10:00 am Israeli tanks shelled the eastern part of the town of Rafah in southern Gaza, killing at least four people and wounding 15, said Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra and Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji.

An Israeli Army spokesman said a heavy exchange of fire had erupted in the Rafah area, without providing further details.

Journalists in the area Tweeted soon after the strike saying ceasefire had ended. NBC's correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin tweeted:

11:00 am: 72-hour Gaza truce goes into effect

A 72-hour truce agreed by Israel and Gaza militants started Friday at 0500 GMT, with diplomats hoping it will pave the way for a longer-term halt to hostilities.

AFP journalists in Gaza said that with the official beginning of the ceasefire the skies over Gaza fell silent, although in the preceeding two hours there was heavy Israeli fire and the sound of outgoing rockets.

9:20 am: Five Israeli soldiers killed on Gaza border: army

Five Israeli soldiers were killed by mortar fire near the Gaza border late Thursday, the army said in a statement.

The latest deaths, just hours ahead of an agreed ceasefire, put the Israeli military toll at 61 soldiers since the start of the hostilities.

Israeli soldiers mourn during the funeral of their comrade Guy Algranati in Tel Aviv. Reuters image

Israeli soldiers mourn during the funeral of their comrade Guy Algranati in Tel Aviv. Reuters image

"IDF (Israeli army) confirms that yesterday evening (Thursday) 5 IDF soldiers were killed during operational activity along the border with the Gaza Strip when a mortar was fired at the forces," the army statement said.

9:08: Palestinians killed by Israeli tank fire in Gaza before truce

Eight Palestinians, including at least two children, were killed by Israeli tank fire in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday, a spokesman for the local emergency services said.

A woman was also among the dead in the attack at Khan Yunes, said spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.

The eight deaths bring the toll on the Palestinian side to 1,450 since the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip began on July 8.

Gaza emergency services said at least 44 people died in Israeli strikes on Thursday and 13 more succumbed to wounds sustained previously.

Thousands more have been wounded during the current offensive.

Figures released on Wednesday by the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said 245,000 Palestinians had been internally displaced by the fighting, with the UN agency for refugees giving shelter to almost 220,000 of them in 86 of its facilities

9:05 am: Egypt invites Israeli, Palestinian delegations for truce talks

Egypt has invited Israel and the Palestinian Authority to send delegates to Cairo for truce talks, after both sides agreed a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza, the foreign ministry said.

The delegations, which will include representatives of Hamas in Gaza, are expected to depart at any moment, a senior Hamas official said.

"Egypt emphasises the importance of both sides committing to the ceasefire so the negotiations can take place in a favourable atmosphere," the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Senior Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq told AFP more talks were needed on finding a solution to the blockade of the coastal enclave. "More efforts are needed," he said in a telephone interview from Doha, where Hamas's political leadership is based.

"But now the whole world knows Gaza will not accept a siege."

The delegations are expected to start arriving in Cairo later Friday.

Frank Lowenstein, the US Middle East envoy, was also expected to depart on Friday to the Egyptian capital, a State Department official said.

9:00 am: Israel accepts 72-hour truce proposal: senior official

Israel has accepted a proposal for a 72-hour humanitarian lull which will begin at 0500 GMT on Friday, a source in the prime minister's office said.

"Israel has accepted the US/UN proposal for a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire beginning 8:00 am Friday (local time)," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

8:52 am: Hamas accepts 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza

Hamas has agreed to observe a 72-hour ceasefire in the Gaza conflict to take effect Friday morning, if Israel does the same, a spokesman for the group told AFP.

Relatives of Palestinians killed in an Israeli air strike grieve at a hospital in Gaza City. Reuters image

Relatives of Palestinians killed in an Israeli air strike grieve at a hospital in Gaza City. Reuters image

"Hamas and all the (Palestinian) resistance movements have accepted a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire from 8:00 am Friday (0500 GMT) which will be respected by all these movements if the other party (Israel) also observes the ceasefire," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said.

8:33 am: Israel to continue 'defensive' operations during truce

Israel will keep up "defensive" operations against tunnels during a 72-hour truce in Gaza, US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Kerry, announcing the ceasefire deal in the early morning on a visit to India, said Israel and Hamas will "cease all offensive military activities and neither side will advance beyond its current locations."

"Israel will be able to continue its defensive operations for those tunnels that are behind its lines, and the Palestinians will be able to receive food, medicine and additional humanitarian assistance as well as to be able to tend to their wounded," the top US diplomat told reporters.

A senior US official said Israel would make clear to the United Nations where its military lines are drawn in Gaza.

"They will continue to do operations to destroy tunnels that pose a threat to Israeli territory... as long as those tunnels exist on the Israeli side of their lines," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Israel launched the military operation in response to rocket fire by Hamas, which effectively controls the Gaza Strip, but more recently has vowed to pursue its campaign until it destroys tunnels through which militants can infiltrate.

8:19 am: Gaza conflict bloodier than 2008/9 as deaths hit 1,442

The toll of Palestinian dead in Israel's 24-day-old Gaza offensive reached 1,442 on Thursday, surpassing the previous record reached during a three-week campaign over New Year in 2009.

Gaza emergency services said at least 44 people died in Israeli strikes on Thursday and 13 more succumbed to wounds sustained previously.

Another 8,200 have been wounded during the current offensive.

The new death toll came as US Secretary of State John Kerry announced a 72-hour ceasefire and said Israelis and Palestinians would enter talks in Cairo to end the bloodshed.

"This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence," Kerry said during a visit to New Delhi.

During Israel's Operation Cast Lead, which began just after Christmas 2008, troops swept into the narrow coastal territory of Gaza with the declared aim of stamping out militant rocket fire.

The confrontation killed 1,440 Palestinians and injured 5,300, according to Palestinian medical sources and associations.

Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have died so far in the current operation Protective Edge, compared to 10 in the previous round.

8:00 am: Kerry announces 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire in the Gaza conflict, US Secretary of State John Kerry said early Friday.

Kerry said that the two sides would begin the truce at 8 am local time (0500 GMT) and that Israelis and Palestinians would enter talks in Cairo.

"This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence," Kerry said in a hastily arranged mid-morning statement on a visit to New Delhi.

"During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies," he said.

"Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period," he said.

Kerry said he was announcing the truce jointly with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has also invested intense efforts in brokering an end to the bloody conflict.

7:48 am: UNSC calls for humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza

The UN Security Council called for humanitarian pauses in Gaza and renewed an appeal for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas amid alarm over the fate of civilians.

The 15 members of the panel expressed "grave disappointment" that repeated calls for a truce had not been heeded, in a statement read to the press at the end of a four-hour meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York.

UN humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos called for the brief humanitarian breaks to allow relief workers to reach those in need, telling the Council that such pauses would give civilians much-needed reprieve.

United Nations Security Council. AFP image

United Nations Security Council. AFP image

"Council members called for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that can lead to a sustainable ceasefire based on the Egyptian proposal," said Rwandan Deputy Ambassador Olivier Nduhungirehe.

"Council members encouraged the use of humanitarian pauses."

The press statement read by the Rwandan chair of the Security Council fell short of the toughly-worded resolution that the Palestinian representative and Arab countries are seeking.

It made no reference to the attack on Wednesday of a UN-run school hosting refugees that left at least 16 dead and drew fierce international condemnation.

UN officials have said they believe an Israeli artillery strike hit the school and have called for a full investigation.

International alarm has grown over the civilian death toll from fighting in the Gaza strip, with the Security Council calling for a humanitarian truce in a statement issued early Monday.

7:34 am: 13 Palestinians killed in Gaza conflict

Nine Palestinians were killed in an Israeli air strike on a house in the central Gaza Strip's Nusseirat refugee camp, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

He said that three more were killed in night-time strikes in the south of the strip, while a body was recovered from rubble in the town of Khan Yunis, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 1,435.

7:26 am: Little doubt Israeli fire in Gaza school strike: White House

The United States said there was little doubt Israeli artillery was the source of a "totally indefensible" strike that killed 16 people at a UN school in Gaza.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had said all available evidence pointed to Israeli artillery and that the Israeli government had acknowledged its forces were firing in the area in response to Hamas fire near the school.

"So while we underscore the importance of a full and prompt investigation of this tragic incident, as well as a shelling of other UN facilities and schools that have been hit, it does not appear there's a lot of doubt about whose artillery was involved in this incident," he said.

"That is why we have continued to urge Israeli military officials to live up to their high standards that they have set for the protection of innocent civilians. There is clearly more that can and should be done to ensure the safety of innocent civilians."

An estimated 3,300 civilians had taken shelter in the UN school in northern Gaza when it was hit Wednesday.

"The shelling of a UN facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible," Earnest said.

7:00 am: UN issues cry for help over Gaza crisis

Israel's 24-day-old Gaza offensive has spawned a humanitarian crisis of monstrous proportions, prompting a home-grown pop star and the overstretched UN relief agency he represents to appeal for aid.

"There is pain in my heart from what is happening in my town and to my people in my beloved home, Gaza that is hurting," said Khan Yunis-born Mohammed Assaf, winner of the popular Arab Idol talent show, said in a video distributed by the United Nations.

"Now we all have to help my beloved people in Gaza, all those who suffer in Gaza, all those who suffer under the attacks," said Assaf, who accompanied an airlift of humanitarian supplies from Dubai to Jordan, from where it continued to Gaza by road.

"We have to help Gaza stand up on its feet one more time," added Assaf, who is the goodwill ambassador of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

The agency has declared a state of emergency and launched an appeal for funding.

"UNRWA urgently seeks $60 million (44.8 million euros) to respond to the immediate shelter, food, health and psycho-social needs of affected families; to replenish emergency stocks; and to prepare for carrying out vital interventions that will be required immediately upon cessation of military activities," its website said.

6:35 am: Gaza 'miracle baby' dies over complications, power cuts

A premature baby rescued by Gaza doctors from her dead mother's womb last week has died due to complications and power cuts affecting the intensive care unit where she was treated.

The six-day-old baby was born by emergency Caesarean section on Friday after doctors at Deir al-Balah hospital in central Gaza managed to save her from the womb of her mother, who died when an Israeli tank shell hit her home.

The mother, 23-year-old Shayma al-Sheikh Qanan, had been eight months pregnant, and the baby was named after her.

Palestinian baby girl Shayma Shiekh al-Eid lies in an incubator after doctors delivered her from the womb of her mother, who was killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Reuters image

Palestinian baby girl Shayma Shiekh al-Sheikh Qanan lies in an incubator after doctors delivered her from the womb of her mother, who was killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Reuters image

But the baby was deprived of oxygen between her mother's death and doctors being able to operate, which meant she had to be hooked up to a respirator at the maternity ward in Khan Yunis hospital in southern Gaza.

"The baby suffered an oxygen deficiency in the womb after her mother's heart stopped," Dr Abdel Karem al-Bawab, head of the maternity ward at Nasser hospital, told AFP.

"This deficiency caused the baby to asphyxiate unexpectedly, rendering her brain dead," he said of the tragedy, which occurred Wednesday.

"The ongoing electricity shortages played a role because her oxygen tubes did not work properly and we had to resuscitate her more than once manually."

Doctors told AFP earlier this week that her vital signs were stable but said she would have to be on the respirator for "at least three more weeks."

6:22 am: EU condemns Israeli shelling of UN school and Gaza market

The European Union on Thursday condemned the shelling of a United Nations school and crowded Gaza market the previous day, urging an immediate probe into the "unacceptable" deaths of civilians.

"It is unacceptable that innocent displaced civilians, who were taking shelter in designated UN areas after being called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes, have been killed," the EU's diplomatic service said in a statement.

"These incidents must be investigated with immediate effect," it said, referring to the shelling of an UNRWA school and the Shejaiya market near Gaza City.

6:17 am: UNRWA chief tells Security Council "Gaza facing precipice"

Palestinians are "facing a precipice" in Gaza, the top UN refugee official there told the Security Council on Thursday in a strongly-worded appeal for action.

With more than 220,000 Palestinians already sheltering in UN facilities -- four times the number from the last Gaza conflict in 2008-2009 -- Philippe Krahenbuhl said he had reached breaking point.

"I believe the population is facing a precipice and appeal to the international community to take the steps necessary to address this extreme situation," the head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA told the 15-member council.

"We have exceeded the tolerable limit that we can accommodate," Krahenbuhl said, adding that he was "alarmed" by the latest Israeli instructions to civilians to evacuate two areas in Gaza targeted for more attacks.

"It is past time for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire as called for by the council," he said.

Krahenbuhl spoke to the council by audiolink from Gaza after Israel vowed to press on with its military campaign to destroy a network of tunnels used by Hamas militants for attacks.

Krahenbuhl described dire conditions for the shelters with very few showers and latrines, and problems with water supplies in classrooms holding 80 people.

"Disease outbreak is beginning" with cases of skin infections such as scabies while thousands of pregnant women have taken refuge in the UN schools, he said.

"We are sheltering newborn infants in these appalling conditions," said the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinians.

"The illegal blockade of Gaza must be lifted," he added, referring to Israeli closure of crossing points that rights groups maintain have turned the Gaza Strip into an "open prison."

In her address to the council, UN Humanitarian Aid Coordinator Valerie Amos said finding shelter from Israeli strikes was becoming increasingly difficult for the 1.8 million people of Gaza.

"The reality of Gaza today is that no place is safe," she said.

Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour renewed his appeal to the Security Council to adopt a tough resolution calling for an end to the fighting, an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and lifting of the Israeli blockade.

"Enough is enough, this genocide should be stopped immediately," Mansour told reporters after the council meeting.

The statement was adopted despite reservations from the United States which was hoping to give diplomatic efforts a chance to yield results in the region.

Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor told reporters that Israel had agreed to "every humanitarian ceasefire" in the conflict and renewed accusations that Hamas was using civilians as shields.

He showed aerial photographs of Hamas rocket launch sites, saying these were close to schools. "Nothing is off-limits for Hamas," said Prosor.

6:12 am: Kerry says US still 'hopeful' for Gaza ceasefire

US Secretary of State John Kerry he remained hopeful for a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict but declined to predict when.

Kerry, on a visit to India, said he had remained in close contact on the telephone with players in the Middle East to try to end the Israel-Hamas conflict.

"The United States remains hopeful that it is achievable, and the sooner the better," Kerry said of a ceasefire.

"There is no promise in that, but I think everybody would feel better if there was a bona fide effort," Kerry told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi.

6:00 am: UN rights chief slams Israel's 'defiance' of international law

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay slammed what she said was Israel's "deliberate defiance" of international law during the Gaza conflict.

Pillay lambasted the country's attacks on homes, schools, hospitals and United Nations facilities which are sheltering 250,000 civilians in Gaza.

"There appears to be deliberate defiance of obligations that international law imposes on Israel," the South African told reporters.

Pillay said that repeated calls to respect the laws of war had gone unheeded during the latest crisis and previous spikes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Relative carry a four-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed in an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters image

Relative carry a four-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed in an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters image

"The same pattern of attacks is occurring now on homes, schools, hospitals, UN premises. None of this appears to me to be accidental," she said.

She spoke a day after Israeli shells slammed into a UN school in Jabalia refugee camp which was sheltering some 3,300 homeless Gazans, killing 16 people.

Israel has accused Palestinian Islamists Hamas and other militants of hiding out among the civilian population and using UN facilities and other sites to store weapons and launch rocket attacks.

Pillay said that under international law, civilian facilities should not be attacked, but can lose their protected status if used for military purposes.

Even then, she said, due warning must be given before an attack, in order to allow civilians to be evacuated.

"It is completely unconscionable that the proportionality and precaution that international law requires is being ignored," said Pillay.

She also criticised Israel's strikes on Gaza's power plant, as well as water and sewerage systems.

Last week, the UN Human Rights Council voted to open an inquiry into the Gaza offensive, despite fierce opposition from Israel and the United States.

"We cannot allow impunity. We cannot allow this lack of accountability to go on," Pillay said, calling into question domestic investigations by Israel into abuses.

"I join the world in condemning the aggression that is taking place in Gaza, and particularly the killing of civilians. This is wrong and it will always be wrong," she added.

As of Wednesday, the 24th day of the Gaza conflict, 1,364 Palestinians had been killed -- three-quarters of them civilians, Pillay said.

Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have also died, while cross-border rocket fire has killed two Israeli civilians and a Thai migrant worker.

The UN human rights chief has repeatedly condemned the actions not only of Israel but also the indiscriminate Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli communities. -AFP

--Updates for 1 August begin here--

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