GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel declared a seven-hour truce on Monday that was meant to open a “humanitarian window” for aid, and the first hour passed without any rocket fire at Israel.
However, the Israeli military said the ceasefire, which started at 10 a.m., would not apply to areas where troops were still operating, and that they would respond to any attacks.
Palestinian sources claimed that there were firefights in the Shati refugee camp that is located near Gaza City.
Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said that any violation of the truce would be met with immediate retaliation at the source of the fire.
Last Friday an agreed-upon 72-hour ceasefire collapsed after Hamas terrorists attacked IDF forces, killing three soldiers, over an hour after the lull was supposed to start.
Earlier in the day an Israeli airstrike killed a military leader in the Gaza Strip just hours ahead of the seven-hour truce. 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.
Israel has been drawing down its ground operation since the weekend but has kept up its aerial, offshore and artillery bombardments of the strip. Gaza-based sources claim that Operation Protective Edge, now in its fourth week, has left more than 1,800 Palestinians dead. Israel has said that hundreds of those killed were armed combatants. Sixty-four IDF soldiers have been killed as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai national.
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.
Israel launched its military operation in Gaza on July 8 in response to weeks of heavy rocket fire, carrying out hundreds of airstrikes across the crowded seaside territory. It then sent in ground forces on July 17 in a mission to destroy the tunnels used by Hamas to carry out attacks inside Israel. Eleven soldiers have been killed in Israeli territory after being ambushed by terrorists who emerged from tunnels dug under the border from Gaza.
Along with destroying the tunnel network Israel has declared that bringing an prolonged lull in the rocket fire was a goal of the operation.
Since the fighting erupted, Hamas has fired more than 3,000 rockets into Israel, many of them intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.
UN officials in Gaza claim more than three-quarters of the dead in the war have been civilians, including the 10 people killed Sunday at a UN school that has been converted into a shelter in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. A Wall Street reporter reported eyewitnesses saying that there were Gazan combatants on motorcycles nearby.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the attack a “moral outrage and a criminal act” and demanded a quick investigation, while the US State Department condemned the strike in unusually strong language.
According to witnesses, Israeli strikes hit just outside the main gates of the school on Sunday. The Red Crescent, a charity, said the attack occurred while people were in line to get food from aid workers. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said in addition to the dead, 35 people were wounded.
Robert Turner, director of operations for the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said the building had been providing shelter for some 3,000 people. He said the strike killed at least one UN staffer.
“The locations of all these installations have been passed to the Israeli military multiple times,” Turner said. “They know where these shelters are. How this continues to happen, I have no idea.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.