Israel withdraws majority of forces from Gaza

Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) near the Israel-Gaza Strip border after pulling back from the Gaza Strip on August 3, 2014 (Photo: Flash90)

Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) near the Israel-Gaza Strip border after pulling back from the Gaza Strip on August 3, 2014 (Photo: Flash90)

Israel has withdrawn most of its ground troops from the Gaza Strip and declared a unilateral, humanitarian ceasefire – the eighth temporary break in the fighting since hostilities began.

The ceasefire is set to last for seven hours from 7am GMT, but will not include the Rafah area where Israeli operations are continuing.

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner claimed the IDF had almost completed its mission to destroy the network of tunnels controlled by Hamas.

He said: “We’ve caused substantial damage to this network to an extent where we’ve basically taken this huge threat and made it minimal.”

But Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said he did not trust the unilateral ceasefire imposed by Israel.

“The calm Israel declared is unilateral and aims to divert attention away from the Israeli massacres. We do not trust such a calm and we urge our people to exercise caution,” he said.

This eighth ceasefire comes as the conflict drags into its 28th day and UN chief Ban Ki-moon branded a further attack against a UN school on Sunday as a “moral outrage and criminal act”.

Diplomatic attempts to find a permanent end to the conflict began again in Cairo on Sunday with Middle East envoy Tony Blair along with his US counterpart flying to the region. A Palestinian delegation made-up of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups were also present, but Israel did not send a negotiating team.

While talks began in Cairo, the funeral for Hadar Goldin - the 23-year-old soldier initially believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas - took place in Israel.

Last updated: 10:50am, August 4 2014