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Gaza Ceasefire Over After Just Two Hours As 40 Palestinians Die In Israeli Shelling

01/08/2014 11:42 BST | Updated 01/08/2014 11:59 BST

A much-vaunted three-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has crumbled within hours, with both sides accusing each other of breaking the truce.

At least 40 Palestinians were killed early Friday by Israel shelling in the eastern part of Rafah on the Egyptian border, just two hours into the ceasefire, which the Israelis said had been an exchange of gunfire from both sides.

The Israeli military has also said one of its soldiers may have been captured by Hamas, according to Sky News.

Both Israel and Hamas had agreed to conduct only defensive missions for the next three days, but much of the ceasefire agreement was couched in pessimism, with US Secretary of State John Kerry saying there were "no guarantees" of a more permanent end to the conflict.

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A Palestinian boy walks over debris as civilians who were displaced from their houses due to fighting between Israel's army and Hamas fighters

"Once again, Hamas and the terror organizations in Gaza have blatantly broken the ceasefire to which they committed, this time before the American Secretary of State and the UN Secretary General," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement, but did not elaborate as to how it had been broken.

Each of the four short humanitarian ceasefires brokered during the four week conflict have been broken by both sides within hours. Under this particular agreement Israeli troops on the ground in Gaza were permitted to continue to destroy tunnels that are behind Israeli defensive lines and lead into Israel.

Soon after the cease-fire went into force, Basem Abul Qumbus returned to find his three-story home uninhabitable. Tank shells had punched a hole in the ceiling of one bedroom and a wall had collapsed into the kitchen.

"The work of all those years is gone," he told AP.

Egypt has called on the Palestinian Authority and Israel to send negotiation teams to Cairo to discuss a more permanent solution. Egypt had put forth a ceasefire proposal a week after fighting began, accepted by Israel, but rejected by Hamas, which is deeply suspicious of the AL-Sisi government because of its persecution of its parent organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the hours before the ceasefire was to take effect, 17 Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes, including 10 from the same family, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. Israel's military said five of its soldiers were killed along the Gaza border.

More than 1,450 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed since hostilities began. Israel says 61 of its soldiers and three civilians in Israel have been killed.

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