Gaza death toll mounts as truce takes hold

Emergency services use a 12-hour humanitarian truce to recover bodies and search rubble for survivors.

Palestininans go their way past rubbles and a mini ferris wheel in the northern district of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip, during an humanitarian truce, on 26 July 2014.

JOHANNESBURG - The death toll in Gaza continues to rise as emergency services use a 12-hour humanitarian truce to recover bodies and search rubble for survivors.

The bodies of at least 85 Palestinians have been recovered in the first half of the truce, according to medics.

The discoveries bring the total toll in Gaza to at least 985 in 19 days.

38 Israelis have died since the conflict started on the 8th of July.

Map of Gaza, Israel and the West Bank. Graphic: AFP.

Top diplomats have gathered in Paris to press efforts for a longer-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Many civilians have been hurt and many homes have collapsed, beneath that are bodies which may or may not have survived.

Because of the intense nature of the fighting, medical crews and ambulances have not been able to get to some of those neighbourhoods which have been particularly hard hit.

Smoke billows from a building on fire in the northern district of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce, on 26 July, 2014. Picture: AFP.

Meanwhile, the International Relations Department says two former senior government officials deployed to the Middle East are faced with a lofty task.

Former Minster Zola Skweyiya and Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad will try to push for a truce following more than two weeks of fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas.

The department's Clayson Monyela says, "South Africa is advocating for the resolution of the current crisis. We've called for the two countries to exercise restraint, observe a ceasefire and come to the negotiating table."