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    Jul 29, 2014

    Gaza fighting abates


    FIGHTING subsided in war-torn Gaza yesterday at the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr as world powers ramped up pressure on the warring sides to immediately end their 21-day confrontation.

    United States President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to demand an "immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire", in a call echoed several hours later by the United Nations Security Council.

    As diplomatic efforts intensified to broker an end to the bloodletting which has claimed over a thousand lives, both sides appeared to have settled into an undeclared ceasefire arrangement, with the skies over Gaza calm for a second night running.

    The army said only one rocket had struck Israel since midnight, hitting the southern port city of Ashkelon, while in Gaza there had been no Israeli air strikes during the night.

    Military spokesman Moti Almoz described the overnight calm as "an unlimited lull" but warned that the army was ready to resume its activity at any time.

    Shortly afterwards, two Palestinians, including four-year-old Samih Ijneid, were killed when Israeli tanks opened fire near the northern town of Jabaliya, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

    Three other Palestinians succumbed to their wounds during the night, raising the overall death toll in Gaza to 1,037.

    Israeli troops, meanwhile, continued to hunt and destroy cross-border militant tunnels inside Gaza, and it was not clear if Hamas was ready to agree to a prolonged pause.

    There was little mood for celebration in Gaza City as Eid al-Fitr that ends the holy fasting month of Ramadan got under way. Several hundred men, women and children arrived for early-morning prayers at the Al-Omari mosque, bowing and solemnly whispering their worship.

    But instead of going to relatives' houses to feast, most went straight home while some went to cemeteries to pay their respects to the dead.