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Palestinians use temporary ceasefire to recover their dead and stock up on food

They were pulling yet more bodies from the rubble in Gaza yesterday.

With a 12-hour humanitarian truce agreed by Israel and Hamas taking hold on the 19th day of their conflict, Palestinians poured on to the streets in the beleaguered coastal strip to recover their dead and stock up on food supplies.

In the northern town of Beit Hanoun, women wailed as medics pulled three dead relatives from a home struck overnight on Friday by an Israeli airstrike, with hospital officials saying 85 bodies had been found after the guns fell silent at 8am local time yesterday.

Yet just before the truce started, 18 members of a single family, including five children, died in a strike near the southern town of Khan Younis.

Stunned residents of Beit Hanoun wandered through destroyed streets lined with damaged houses or mounds of rubble where once whole buildings had stood. Some who had not seen each other for days embraced as they surveyed the wreckage around them. Many of Beit Hanoun's 30,000 residents had fled the area.

"We hope the calm lasts and they find a solution so fighting ends. We are afraid for our children's safety," one woman told reporters, adding she will not leave her home. "There is no place to go."

Minutes after the truce began, many Gaza residents rushed out of their homes and lined up outside banks to withdraw cash. Gaza City market was packed with people trying to buy what food there was, and clothes for the coming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Despite the horrors, Gazans remain determined to hang on to a semblance of normality.

"For us the Eid is going to be another day of war, another day of grief. I hope it all ends before we lose more people," said Shaima Mahmoud who was shopping with her four-year-old daughter for a holiday dress.

Hopes that the truce would extend towards a more lasting peace were raised last night after Israel agreed to extend the 12-hour ceasefire by four hours.

However, the country's military said it would carry on searching for tunnels used by Hamas fighters in Gaza, and confirmed that two more of its soldiers were killed in pre-truce fighting

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been spearheading international efforts to end the fighting, his diplomatic push continuing yesterday in Paris.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said that the foreign ministers of all seven countries involved in the diplomacy - the United States, France, Britain, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Qatar - had called for an extension of the truce.

"All of us call on the parties to extend the humanitarian ceasefire that is currently under way," Fabius said.

However, the temporary lull was unlikely to change the trajectory of the current hostilities, with Israel's and Hamas' positions still far apart.

Hamas wants an end to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza before agreeing to halt hostilities. Israeli officials said that any ceasefire must allow the country's military to carry on hunting down Hamas' tunnel network that criss-crosses the Gaza border.

The Gaza turmoil has also stoked tensions amongst Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Medics said eight Palestinians were killed in incidents near the West Bank cities of Nablus and Hebron on Friday, the sort of death toll reminiscent of previous uprisings against Israel's prolonged military rule there.

Meanwhile, back in the UK and across European cities there were continued protests against Israel's military campaign in Gaza.

In Edinburgh, demonstrators took to the streets starting at the foot of the Mound and made their way along Princes Street. In central London, activists and supporters of the Palestinian cause brought the city centre to a standstill, gathering outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington, west London, before marching towards Parliament Square.

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Transport Tragedy

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