Photo Essay

  • A member of the Shabat family inspects damages upon returning to the family house, destroyed by Israeli strikes in the town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, on Aug. 5, 2014. Israel and Hamas began observing a temporary cease-fire on Tuesday that sets the stage for talks in Egypt on a broader deal on the Gaza Strip, including a sustainable truce and the rebuilding of the battered, blockaded coastal territory.
  • A Palestinian youth sits on the rubble of a destroyed building in part of Gaza City’s al-Tufah neighborhood on Aug. 6, 2014.
  • Rescue workers remove the body a Palestinian man from under the rubble following an earlier Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Aug. 5, 2014, after a 72-hour truce agreed by Israel and the ruling Hamas movement went into effect.
  • Palestinians crowd a window to receive food aid at a United Nations distribution center in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, on Aug. 6, 2014.
  • A Palestinian man looks on while standing in what remains of his house in part of the northern Beit Hanun district of the Gaza Strip after a 72-hour truce accepted by Israel and Hamas came into effect on Aug. 5, 2014. 
  • Palestinian children stand in the heavily damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh school in Gaza City’s al-Shejaea neighborhood on Aug. 5, 2014.
  • Palestinian men inspect destruction in part of Gaza City’s al-Tufah neighborhood on August 6, 2014
  • A general view of destroyed houses in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, on Aug 5, 2014. Israel pulled its last soldiers out of the Gaza Strip on Aug. 5, as a 72-hour truce went into effect after four weeks of fighting with Palestinian militants.
  • A Palestinian couple looking for salvageable things in their destroyed home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, on Aug. 5, 2014. 
  • Shrapnel holes are seen on a decorated wall in the heavily damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh school in Gaza City’s al-Shejaea neighborhood on Aug. 5, 2014.
  • A Palestinian woman walks through the rubble of destroyed buildings in part of Gaza City’s al-Tufah neighbourhood as the fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip entered a second day on Aug. 6, 2014 
/

Gazans take stock of damage as cease-fire holds on second day

Updated

Palestinians returned to their homes in Gaza to find widespread devastation on Wednesday, the second day of a 72-hour cease-fire between Israel and Hamas after a month of fighting and broken truces that has left nearly 2,000 people dead. The temporary reprieve comes amid ongoing negotiations in Cairo that mediators hope will secure a long-term truce and humanitarian relief for the war-torn region.

Israel said Tuesday that it had withdrawn its ground forces from Gaza after completing its primary military objective, the destruction of 32 cross-border tunnels and dozens of access points used by Hamas militants to smuggle arms into the Palestinian enclave and to launch attacks on Israel.

“For the moment, the near constant firing of Hamas rockets and Israeli missiles and mortars has subsided,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday before the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. “But, of course, we cannot rest as the suffering continues. This ceasefire has come at a price that is almost too much to bear.”

Nearly 1,900 Palestinians – the majority of them civilians – have lost their lives since hostilities began July 8. More than one-third of the casualties have been women and children, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

Dozens of Palestinians have also died while taking shelter at U.N. facilities that have come under fire in recent weeks – attacks that the U.N. secretary general called “outrageous, unacceptable and unjustified.”

“Yes, we uncovered cases in which weapons were stored in a small number of abandoned buildings. Yes, there were reports that Hamas rockets were fired from near UN premises. Yet, let me be clear: Mere suspicion of militant activity does not justify jeopardizing the lives and safety of many thousands of innocent civilians,” Ban said.

According to an Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson, 597 of the 3,356 rockets fired at Israel have been launched from civilian facilities, including approximately 260 shot from schools and 50 from hospitals used as cover by Hamas.

Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization that controls a majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament, is now seeking an internationally-funded reconstruction plan as part of the longer-term truce being negotiated in Egypt, which would be overseen by a unity government led by moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israelis, however, are hesitant to make any concessions that could be seen as rewarding the militant group for its attacks.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography