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Humanitarian Truce’ Quickly Collapses In Gaza; Fighting Resumes

A Palestinian man runs with a white flag in the Shejaia neighborhood, which was heavily shelled by Israel during fighting in Gaza City on Sunday.

A two-hour "humanitarian truce" in the Gaza Strip collapsed almost as soon as it began and fighting has resumed between Hamas militants and Israeli forces.

The brief cease-fire, meant to allow both sides to tend to the wounded, was brokered by the Red Cross. But the Israeli Defense Forces says Hamas broke the truce by firing at its soldiers. There was no independent verification of the IDF claim.

The 12-day Israeli offensive, aimed at destroying Hamas launch sites that have been used to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel's territory, has killed at least 360 Palestinians and wounded some 3,000. At least eight Israelis have been killed in the latest fighting.

Israel says it is stepping up the ground war, sending more troops into Gaza and intensifying tank fire and airstrikes, NPR's Daniel Estrin tells our Newscast desk.

The cease-fire was specifically aimed at treating the wounded in a northeastern Gaza neighborhood known as Shejaia after the IDF intensified shelling there, The Jerusalem Post reports. Reuters, citing witnesses and health officials, says at least 50 Palestinians were killed there and that "bodies were strewn in the street and thousands fled for shelter to a hospital packed with wounded."

The news agency says the casualties in Shejaia are the heaviest since Israel launched its offensive on July 8 after cross-border rocket strikes by militants intensified.

According to Reuters:

"Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the occupied West Bank, accused Israel of carrying out a massacre and declared three days of mourning.""The Israeli military said on Sunday Hamas had deployed rockets and built tunnels and command centres in Shejaia. 'Two days ago, residents of Shejaia received recorded messages to evacuate the area in order to protect their lives,' an Israeli military spokeswoman said."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/

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