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Medics unearth dozens of bodies in ravaged Gaza Strip

Jan. 18, 2009 10:16 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 18, 2009 10:16 A.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - A Gazan farmer is dead and his son injured by Israeli fire less than ten hours after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire in the Gaza Strip Sunday morning, medical sources confirmed.

The farmer was identified as 24-year-old Abd As-Samad Abu Rejlieh, who was shot as he went out to his lands to inspect the damage from the 22-day Israeli incursion.

Israeli fire also hit a mother and her daughter in their home in the northern Strip town of Beit Hanoun, both were injured.

Since the ceasefire went into effect at 2am Sunday morning, one is dead and several injured. Medical crews continue to dig bodies out of Gaza rubble.

Israeli reconnaissance planes buzzed overhead throughout the night Sunday, and explosions were heard in several parts of the Strip. Israeli shells fell on a group of Rafah residents in the south, and phosphorus bombs landed in the At-Tuffah neighborhood of eastern Gaza City.

Gazans also reported that an Israeli helicopter shot at a group in line near a Bank of Palestine ATM in Jabaliya.

Eyewitnesses say hundreds of families were seen moving in the streets, heading back to their homes in northern Gaza. One family, caught on film with Al-Jazeera, returned north to the Jabaliya district to find their family home demolished. They dug through the rubble and pulled out more than 25 bodies. One man collapsed when he discovered his brother beneath the debris.

Medical crews reported coming across "the most horrifying scenes," and that most dead bodies being uncovered have been found in pieces. Many had been dead for several days and had begun to decompose. Many of the reeking dead were women and children who stayed in their homes during the clashes and shelling.

Many of the bodies are being buried immediately, given their state of decomposition, and are being identified and by relatives rather than being first transferred to hospital.

Medical teams found four bodies under the rubble after the Israeli tanks partially withdrew from the Al-Atatrah neighborhood in Bet Lahiya north of Jabaliya.

Muawiyah Hassanain, the director of Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Health Ministry in Gaza said dozens of bodies have been uncovered and recovered from sectors of the Gaza Strip that medical crews and families had not been able to reach because of the intensity of the shelling. He said crews would work all day Sunday to recover the bodies, in coordination with Israeli troops still on the ground.

The corridor between northern and central Gaza remains closed, since troops remain stationed around the former Netsarim settlement. They are reported to have withdrawn from the Zaitoun, Ash-Shaf and At-Tuffah neighborhoods of Gaza City, away from the homes of citizens.

The death toll of the 22-day war stands at 1,234 with more than 5,450 injured. The number is expected to rise as bodies are found throughout the day.

***Updated 23:45 Gaza time

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