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Hundreds flee Gaza homes following Israeli attacks

Hundreds of Palestinians on Tuesday fled their homes in border areas between the Gaza Strip and Israel following fresh Israeli attacks on the blockaded Palestinian territory. Israeli planes launched several airstrikes across the Gaza Strip, claiming the move was a response to rockets allegedly fired from the Palestinian territory despite a temporary ceasefire.
Following the attacks, hundreds of Palestinians left their homes in the southern cities of Rafah and Khan Younis and the northern Shujaya neighborhood and took refuge at government and UNRWA-run schools. Palestinian resistance faction Hamas, for its part, denied any knowledge of the alleged rocket fire, asserting that the fresh Israeli attacks sought to undermine Egypt-hosted negotiations aimed at reaching a permanent ceasefire. For the last ten days, Palestinian factions and Israel have been holding indirect negotiations in Cairo aimed at reaching a permanent truce.
A five-day ceasefire expired on Monday. But the two sides agreed to extend it by 24 hours as part of Egyptian efforts aimed at reaching a permanent deal.
The ceasefire came following more than a month of devastating Israeli attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip, which have left more than 2000 Palestinians dead – the vast majority of them civilians – and more than 10,000 injured.
Palestinian casualties from the current offensive alone have surpassed the combined Palestinian death toll from two previous operations, including Israel's highly-destructive "Operation Cast Lead" in 2008/9.
In that operation, some 1500 Palestinians were killed – mostly civilians – over the course of three weeks, while large swathes of the strip's infrastructure was destroyed.
According to Israeli figures, at least 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed in recent ground battles with Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip – the highest military death toll for Israel of any of its three onslaughts on the territory.
Three Israeli civilians, meanwhile, have been killed by rocket fire from Gaza.
Since 2007, the Gaza Strip – home to some 1.8 million Palestinians – has reeled under a crippling Israeli blockade that has badly affected the local economy and played havoc with residents' livelihoods.
By Mustafa Haboosh

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