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Humanitarian aid arrives in Gaza as rebuilding efforts get underway

"I'm praying this cease-fire will hold," President Biden told reporters on Friday.
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As residents picked through rubble and continued to take stock of the damage in the Gaza Strip, humanitarian aid arrived in the long impoverished region on Saturday, less than 48 hours after a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was declared.

The United Nations said it had released $22.5 million, which would go towards rebuilding damaged water and electricity infrastructure and disposing of explosive ordnance.

"Hostilities have exacerbated the needs of 2 million people in Gaza who have been debilitated by 13 years of forced isolation and the Covid-19 pandemic," Mark Lowcock, the U.N.'s Emergency Relief Coordinator said in a statement.

Over 77,000 Palestinians were displaced and unable to leave Gaza, during the 11-days of fighting that ended late Thursday, the U.N. said in a statement. Many have now begun to return home, although at least 1,000 people had their homes completely destroyed or severely damaged, it added.

Palestinian officials have put the reconstruction costs at tens of millions of dollars.

Egypt, which helped broker the truce, said it had sent a convoy of aid trucks carrying food, bedding, medicine and baby milk, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi's office said in a statement.

Despite confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem after Friday prayers, the cease-fire appeared to be holding on Saturday after the fighting which saw Israel pound Gaza with air-strikes and artillery. Palestinian militants also fired thousands of rockets into Israel, the country's military said.

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Gaza Health Ministry said at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed in the violence, while Israeli officials said at least 12 people had died.

Despite the truce, experts are divided on whether long-term peace can be achieved.

President Joe Biden told a White House briefing on Friday that a two-state solution was the only answer to resolving the deep-rooted conflict.

"I'm praying this cease-fire will hold," he said, before pledging U.S. support to help rebuild Gaza, which is governed by the militant group Hamas — labelled a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also due to travel to the region "in the coming days," the State Department said on Thursday.

Image: Adi Vaizel, looks at the damage caused to the kitchen of his house after it was hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip earlier this week, in Ashkelon
Adi Vaizel looks at the damage caused to his house in Ashkelon, Israel, on Thursday, after it was hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip.Amir Cohen / Reuters

Meanwhile in Gaza, as Nadeen Abed al-Lateef, aged 10, stood amid the rubble in her neighborhood, she told NBC News: "It's been scary and terrifying for kids like us."

Across the border in Ashkelon, Israel, Ron Ariely's home was partially destroyed when it was hit last week by a Hamas rocket. He said it had damaged his hearing.

"I heard like a big noise ... I can't even describe it, I didn't even hear anything like that before," he said.

Although he welcomed the cease-fire, Ariely predicted another cycle of violence was never far off.

"That's the routine here pretty much," he added.