Israelis and Palestinians mark one year since Gaza war


Israelis and Palestinians mark one year since last summer's devastating war in the Gaza Strip today, with a ceasefire still largely holding but few of the issues that led to the conflict resolved. The war took a heavy toll on Gaza, killing 2,251 Palestinians, including more than 500 children. Seventy-three people were killed on the Israeli side, including 67 soldiers.

A UN report released last month said that both sides may have committed war crimes during the 50-day conflict, which has left more than 100,000 Gazans homeless in the impoverished enclave of 1.8 million people.

It was the third war in Gaza in six years, and by far the deadliest and most destructive of the three, leaving families wondering when the suffering will end. "You have to remember, if you are even just a seven-year-old child... you have been through three wars," said Robert Turner, Gaza operations director for UN relief agency UNRWA.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, has planned commemorations on Wednesday.

Israel held a memorial on Monday for its 73 victims killed in the war, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the military offensive. "I say to all enemies of Israel – Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and IS (Islamic State) – that those who attempt to attack our people will pay with their blood," he said.

The circumstances surrounding Gaza have led to fears that another war could eventually break out, with rockets still occasionally fired into Israel and the Jewish state responding with air strikes. Indirect talks on shoring up the ceasefire that ended last year's war and easing Israel's strict blockade on the territory have taken place, but there have been no signs that a deal could be reached anytime soon.

The blockade, as well as a lack of financing from international donors, have been blamed for the slow pace of reconstruction in Gaza, where around 18,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged.

A split between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority led by president Mahmud Abbas, which runs the Israeli occupied West Bank, has worsened the situation. Reconciliation attempts have failed to heal the rift.

Meanwhile, Hamas has been challenged by Salafist extremists in Gaza claiming links to the Islamic State jihadist group and who have taken credit for recent rocket fire.    (AFP)

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