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Gaza 'looks like earthquake zone'

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The BBC's Aleem Maqbool views the damage in one Gaza City neighbourhood

The worst-hit areas in the Gaza Strip after Israel's three-week offensive look as if they have been hit by a strong earthquake, aid agencies say.

Correspondents in Gaza City say entire neighbourhoods have been flattened and bodies are still being recovered.

The UN says it is still sheltering at least 35,000 Palestinians while 400,000 people are without running water.

Israel says it will allow 143 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid into Gaza plus 60,000 litres of fuel.

Israel launched its offensive on 27 December to stop Hamas militants firing rockets into Israel.

Palestinian medical sources say at least 1,300 Palestinians were killed and 5,500 injured during the conflict. Thirteen Israelis were killed.

Aid promise

An International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman said on Monday evening that 10 ambulances carrying medical supplies had travelled into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing in the south.

CONFLICT IN FIGURES
More than 1,300 Palestinians killed
Thirteen Israeli deaths
More than 4,000 buildings destroyed in Gaza, more than 20,000 severely damaged
50,800 Gazans homeless and 400,000 without running water

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC that medicines, foodstuffs and energy would reach Gaza "in the volume that is required and in an expeditious manner".

The BBC was unable to verify whether the food and fuel convoys had reached Gaza.

Israel called a ceasefire on Saturday, saying it had met its war aims. Hamas later declared its own truce, with one of its leaders claiming a "great victory" over Israel.

European Union foreign ministers are due to hold separate talks later this week with Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority to discuss ways to ensure the truce holds.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has agreed a plan with top EU officials on how the 27-member bloc could help keep the ceasefire, German media report.

Scrap metal

Palestinians in Gaza have been returning home to assess the damage.

Just looked what they've done... we are human beings, how can they treat us this way? What will we do?
Fatim Aljaru, Gaza resident

The BBC's Christian Fraser travelled to Jabaliya on the northern edge of Gaza City, where the Israeli tanks first crossed over the border. He says entire neighbourhoods have disappeared.

He met 67-year-old Fatma Umanim, sitting beside the remains of her collapsed house, her neighbours building a makeshift shelter for her next to the rubble.

Our correspondent says an industry is growing out of the destruction in broken wood and scrap metal - Gaza's poorest salvaging whatever they can.

Fatim Aljaru, aged 35, told the BBC that every single building on her street on the outskirts of Gaza City had been damaged or destroyed.

She said the home that she had shared with her husband and eight children was now a pile of rubble.

"Just look what they've done... we are human beings, how can they treat us this way? What will we do?"

The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, is planning to visit Gaza on Tuesday to inspect the damage but his trip "could be subject to change", Israeli officials said.

The director of operations in Gaza for Unrwa, the UN relief agency, John Ging, said most important now was how to get basic supplies into the territory.

Unrwa was keen to reopen its schools, Mr Ging said, where tens of thousands of Palestinians have been sheltering.

Arab split

Divisions among Arab countries re-emerged at an Arab League summit in Kuwait which was dominated by the crisis in Gaza.

GAZA LATEST

Arab divisions over the Gaza crisis have re-emerged at a summit in Kuwait.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Hamas had invited the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip by refusing to extend a truce that expired in December while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Arab leaders should adopt a resolution declaring Israel a terrorist entity.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said he wants troops to leave Gaza "as quickly as possible" and some have already left.

Anonymous Israeli officials, quoted by AP news agency, said the withdrawal would be completed before US President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration on Tuesday.

But analysts say big questions remain, such as who will police Gaza's southern border with Egypt and how much power Hamas still has.

Hamas has said it will hold fire for a week to give Israel time to withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip.

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