News Test of Israel-Palestinian ceasefire as clashes erupt at the mosque which triggered conflict
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Test of Israel-Palestinian ceasefire as clashes erupt at the mosque which triggered conflict

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The first day of a truce between Israel and Hamas has been put to the test as street clashes outside a mosque in Jerusalem punctuated the ceasefire.

As both sides tried to claim victory in the 11-day conflict, violence broke out between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.

Palestinians hurled stones and petrol bombs and Israeli police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets and shot tear gas shortly after Friday prayers.

The latest spark erupted as Egypt, which had brokered the ceasefire, prepared to continue negotiating with both sides on ways to maintain stability.

It was unclear what set off the clashes.

Immediately after Friday prayers, hundreds of Palestinians had held a celebratory demonstration at Al-Aqsa in which they waved flags and banners of the militant Hamas group ruling Gaza.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said officers had entered the area around the mosque after stones were thrown at them.

“They are dealing with these disturbances in order to contain the situation,” he said.

Palestinian Muslim worshippers gather in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound. Photo: Getty

Confrontations at the holy site, which is revered by Jews and Muslims, were one of the main triggers for the Gaza war.

The violence erupted on May 10, triggered by Palestinians’ anger at what they saw as Israeli curbs on their rights in Jerusalem, including during police confrontations with protesters at Al-Aqsa mosque during the Ramadan fasting month.

The truce between Israel and Hamas came into effect on Friday morning (Australian time) under an agreement mediated by Egypt after the worst violence in years.

In the aftermath, five more bodies were pulled from the rubble in the densely populated Palestinian enclave, taking the death toll to 243, including 66 children, with more than 1900 wounded.

In Israel, the military said a soldier had been killed as well as 12 civilians; hundreds have been treated for injuries after rocket salvoes that caused panic and sent people rushing into shelters as far away as Tel Aviv.

An Israeli building hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. Photo: Getty

Gaza officials said 16,800 homes were damaged and residents were getting three or four hours of power compared with 12 hours before the fighting.

Palestinian officials put the cost of Gaza reconstruction in the tens of millions of dollars, while economists said the fighting could curb Israel’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Israel’s air strikes and Palestinian rockets stopped being fired on Friday, both sides attempted to claim victory.

Palestinians who had huddled in fear of Israeli shelling poured into Gaza’s streets, embracing one another in celebration in front of bombed-out buildings.

Mosque loudspeakers feted “the victory of the resistance.”

Cars drove around flying Palestinian flags and honking horns.

“It is true the battle ends today but Netanyahu and the whole world should know that our hands are on the trigger and we will continue to grow the capabilities of this resistance,” said Ezzat El-Reshiq, a senior member of the Hamas political bureau.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the operation had hit the ability of Hamas, the Islamist group which runs Gaza, to launch missiles at Israel.

Mr Netanyahu said the Israeli military had attacked and destroyed Hamas’s extensive tunnel network in Gaza, its rocket factories, weapons laboratories and storage facilities and killed more than 200 militants, including 25 senior operatives.

“Hamas can’t hide anymore. That’s a great achievement for Israel,” he said in a televised address.

“We eliminated an important part of Hamas’s and Islamic Jihad’s command echelon. And whoever was not killed, knows today that our long arm can reach him anywhere, above ground or underground.”

Hamas however cast the fighting as successful resistance to a militarily and economically stronger foe.

-with AAP