An apparent lapse of Israel Defence Force communications Sunday put a convoy of Red Crescent workers and international journalists at great risk during the Israeli shelling of a Gaza neighbourhood, but did reveal a cluster of armed fighters who had stayed hiding out in the east Gaza neighbourhood of Shejaia.
Originally, the IDF informed the two groups that it had accepted a request from the Red Crescent for a two-hour humanitarian truce to allow medics to evacuate the dead and injured from Shejaia. The truce was to run from 13:30 hours to 15:30 hours, local time.
It was confirmed by telephone to this journalist at 13:30, as well as announced publically. However, shortly after a convoy of ambulances, fire trucks and journalists’ cars crossed into the district after 13:40, shells landed 200-400 meters away. The shells hit cinder-block houses in the small valley that runs through the area.
After some confusion, the IDF informed people that the ceasefire would indeed hold from that point on. The army subsequently posted a statement on Twitter that “Though we agreed to the Red Cross’ request for a cease fire in Shuja’iya until 15:30, Hamas has not stopped shooting from Shuja’iya.”
The IDF told Agence France Presse that because militants had broken the truce, The Israelis “responded accordingly,” suggesting they had fired on militant groups.
Indeed, as journalists arrived at the scene in Shejaia Sunday afternoon, several men with guns were scurrying from the scene. Some bore their weapons openly, slung over their shoulder, but two, disguised as women, were seen walking off with weapons partly concealed under their robes. Another had his weapon wrapped in a blanket and held on his chest as if it were a baby.