JERUSALEM - A 72-hour truce took hold in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday as Israel withdrew ground troops after a month of bitter fighting with Hamas and Palestinians surveyed ruined homes. The guns fell silent after 29 days of deadly fighting, bringing relief to millions as both sides counted the cost from a conflict that killed at least 1,867 Palestinians and 67 people in Israel.

Officials on both sides confirmed to AFP that they had sent small delegations to Cairo for talks aimed at securing a permanent ceasefire after the 72-hour window closes. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said there was “clear evidence” of war crimes by Israel during its offensive in Gaza as he met International Criminal Court prosecutors on Tuesday to push for an investigation.

Malki visited The Hague shortly after Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement that rules Gaza entered a 72-hour truce mediated by Egypt in an effort to pave the way for an extended ceasefire.

Malki said the Palestinian Authority wanted to give the ICC jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes by all sides and had discussed a timeline with prosecutors to join the court. He did not provide details.

By joining the court, the Palestinian territories would automatically open themselves up to possible investigations into crimes within their borders and could also grant jurisdiction to investigate crimes dating back to July 1, 2002. “If it entails action committed by Palestinian groups (against Israelis) then we are ready to accept that,” Malki said. “But nothing compares to the atrocities, the carnage, committed by Israel.”

“Is this is really my town?” asked Khayri Hasan al-Masri, a father of three who returned to heavily-damaged Beit Hanun in the north for the first time since fleeing for his life when the ground offensive began on July 17.

Gaping holes have pierced the walls of his home. There is a mortar in the living room, a bazooka upstairs. “What am I going to tell my wife and children? I don’t want them to see this! They will go crazy. How can I explain all this?” he sighed, crunching over debris.

More than 400 children have been killed in Israel’s assault on Gaza, and almost a thousand times as many are traumatised and face an “extraordinarily bleak” future, the top Unicef official in Gaza said on Tuesday.

Pernille Ironside, head of the field office run by the UN children’s agency in Gaza, said rebuilding children’s lives would be part of a much larger effort to reconstruct the Palestinian enclave once the fighting has stopped for good.

 A month of fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip will cost the Palestinian territory at least $4-6 billion in damages, deputy economy minister Taysir Amro said Tuesday.

Amro told AFP the figure included only “direct damages” to the Gaza economy and warned it could climb further once additional impacts on the 1.8 million population are taken into account.

 Jordan has presented a new resolution on the Gaza crisis to the UN Security Council and hopes for action on the measure in the coming days, its ambassador said Tuesday.

The draft resolution backed by Arab countries calls for a lasting ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, as well as an international effort to rebuild Gaza after four weeks of fighting killed at least 1,867 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.

“We are in consultation with all the Council members and hope that in the next day or two we can come up with a product,” Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar said.

Meanwhile, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro compared Israel’s offensive in Gaza on Tuesday to a “disgusting form of fascism” that its ally, the United States, is unable to control.

 “I think that a new and disgusting form of fascism is emerging with considerable force at this moment in human history,” Castro wrote in a column in the newspaper Granma titled “Palestinian Holocaust in Gaza.”

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said troops would be “deployed in defensive positions” outside Gaza and would respond to any violation of the truce. Egypt announced the ceasefire late on Monday.

It took effect after the quietest night since fighting began. Medics in Gaza reported no deaths or injuries since midnight, although two people died from wounds sustained earlier.

 The quiet allowed emergency workers to move into previously inaccessible areas, with the worst devastation near the southern city of Rafah, which had been flattened in a massive Israeli assault that began Friday.  In the West Bank city of Ramallah, deputy economy minister Taysir Amro said the 29-day war had caused damage of up to $6 billion dollars (4.5 billion euros).

It was the second time in four days that the two sides had agreed to observe a 72-hour humanitarian truce. The last attempt on August 1 - brokered by Washington and the UN - was shattered within just 90 minutes.

The latest breakthrough emerged in Cairo where Palestinian and Egyptian mediators had held two-days of talks with Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives.

Israel and Hamas, the de facto power in Gaza, confirmed they would abide by the new ceasefire. Officials from both sides confirmed to AFP they had sent delegations to Cairo for talks. Israel had earlier refused to join.

The United States and the United Nations welcomed Tuesday’s truce, saying the onus was on Hamas to uphold its end of the deal.

Israel has also been subject to increasingly harsh criticism over the high number of Palestinian civilian casualties. The army says it destroyed 32 cross-border tunnels, struck nearly 4,800 targets and killed 900 Palestinian “terrorists”.

“They were part of a strategic plan of Hamas, and an investment of approximately $100 million worth of materials, and we have now removed that threat,” Lerner said. “We struck just over 3,000 rockets; they launched over 3,300 rockets and we expect that they still have about 3,000 rockets left. This is a challenge we have to address.”

UN agency OCHA says 1,312 of the Palestinian dead are civilians, including 408 children and 214 women.

Ahead of the Cairo talks, Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of the strategic affairs ministry, said Israel needed assurances that “this ceasefire is going to be different from previous ones, that it’s going to last for a long time and that Hamas is not going to rearm itself.”

Negotiators in the Egyptian capital are likely to face tough challenges with conflicting demands on both sides.

The Palestinians insist Israel end its eight-year blockade of the Gaza Strip and that border crossings be opened.

Israel wants Gaza fully demilitarised, conditioning its facilitation of reconstruction in Gaza on the international community stripping the enclave of heavy weapons.

Meanwhile, Italy said Tuesday it is expelling a Moroccan imam caught on video inciting violence against Jews during Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

The imam was filmed during a Friday sermon in a mosque near Venice last month calling for Jews to be killed “one by one”, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri), which published the video on its website.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said he had ordered the expulsion of Raoudi Aldelbar “for seriously disturbing public order, being a danger to national security and for religious discrimination,” after experts carried out a thorough examination of the footage.

Aldelbar, an imam in the town of San Dona di Piave in northern Italy, appeared in the video to launch into a diatribe against the Jews, in which he said: “Oh Allah, bring upon them that which will make us happy. Count them one by one, and kill them one by one.”

Alfano said the speech was “unacceptable” as it was “of clear anti-Semitic tone, containing explicit incitements to violence and religious hate”.

Anti-Semitic graffiti was scrawled across walls in several areas of Rome last month in protest at Israel’s deadly offensive against Gaza.