Palestinian Death Toll Surpasses 1,000, Reports Of a Four-Hour Cease-Fire Extension

gazajuly_26 A Palestinian woman reacts as she arrives to check her destroyed house in Gaza City's Shejaia neighborhood, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli airstrikes and shelling during an offensive early Saturday.

Hours into the Israel and Gaza half-day humanitarian cease-fire on Saturday, rescue forces in Gaza were finally able to clear the rubble left from overnight Israeli strikes and what they found pushed the Palestinian death toll passed 1,000 people. The Israel Defense Forces death toll is now at 40.

Palestinian news agency Ma’an said at least 151 bodies were recovered from destroyed homes on Saturday. Naser Tattar, director of Gaza's main Shifa hospital told Reuters that most of the bodies were found in the Beit Hanoun, Khan Younis and Shejaia neighborhoods, which have seen some of the most brutal strikes. She said, during the cease-fire, residents went back to find entire buildings and blocks reduced to rubble.

With just an hour to go before the cease-fire ends, seven foreign ministers meeting in Paris called for a four-hour extension, which reports say Israel approved, effectively extending the truce until midnight local time. 

Both Israel and Hamas agreed to the original  12-hour truce that began at 8 a.m. local time on Saturday, although the IDF said they would continue to search for “terror tunnels” during this time.

While the cease-fire is holding, the hours before the bombardments stopped were some of the bloodiest in Gaza. Three IDF soldiers were killed and at least 35 wounded when militants fired an anti-tank missile at their vehicle. The Israel Air Force claims to have dropped more than 100 bombs overnight and said each contained a ton of explosives. According to Reuters, at least 18 members of one family, including five children, died in a strike in Khan Younis. AP had the body count at 20, half of them children.

Also in Khan Younis, Haaretz reported that a man in Gaza was fatally shot while trying to pull bodies from destroyed homes. In Gaza City, 15-year-old Hussam Yassin was killed by a strike on his home for being the grandson of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

In Beit Hanoun, there were reports of Israeli shelling hitting a hospital where 60 employees and at least three patients were present. An ambulance was also reportedly hit by the Israeli airstrikes. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates at least 18 medical facilities in Gaza have been damaged in the 19 days since Israel began its offensive.

OCHA said at least 167,000 people have been displaced and some shelters have more than 80 people seeking refuge per classroom, in their daily report released Friday.

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