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In Pictures: Gaza's devastation emerges amid ceasefire

Palestinians returning to their homes in Beit Hanoun during a ceasefire on Monday found shocking devastation inflcted by Israel's offensive
A destroyed street in Beit Hanoun (Mee / Anne Paq and Basel Yazouri)

Palestinians who returned briefly to their homes in Beit Hanoun during a ceasefire on Monday found shocking devastation there. Beit Hanoun and the north of Gaza were heavily bombed and shelled by Israeli forces during its four-week military campaign.

Residents who had fled their houses have now been instructed by the Israeli army forces to return after a 72-hour, Egyptian-brokered truce went into effect.

Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,867 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed since fighting began on July 8, after a surge in Palestinian rocket launches.

According to rights group Al-Mezan, Israeli attacks across Gaza have destroyed or damaged 79 schools, 123 mosques, 36 NGO offices, 50 fishing boats, and 137 vehicles. At least, 6,577 houses have been destroyed or damaged, with 1,162 were destroyed completely

"Beit Hanoun used to be called a fruit basket - a land of lemons and oranges," resident Abdel-Sattar Ismail told Reuters while standing next to the wreckage of his home. "Israel has turned it into scorched earth, like Sarajevo."

A kindergarten built by the Italian NGO Vento de Terra was also destroyed by an Israeli strike in the nearby Bedouin village of Um Al Nasser. The Bedouin village had also come under heavy attack, with most of its inhabitants fleeing the village after Israeli soldiers invaded it.

The number of displaced Palestinians is difficult to evaluate as many are living with relatives, friends or around hospitals, However, UNRWA has estimated that there are 272,987 people in 90 of its schools alone.