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Israeli Ground Forces Withdraw Entirely From Gaza As 72-Hour Cease-Fire Takes Effect

Israeli soldiers hold positions near the Israeli-Gaza border on July 21, 2014, after militants from Gaza infiltrated southern Israel through two tunnels. More than 10 militants from Gaza who accessed Israel were shot dead the Israeli army's official spokesman said. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Israel's ground forces have withdrawn entirely from Gaza as a 72-hour cease-fire took effect Tuesday morning, an Israeli military spokesman said.

"The Israel Defense Forces will be redeployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip and we will maintain those defensive positions," Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner told reporters, according to Reuters.

The move came after the Israeli military said they completed the "destruction of 32 terror tunnels" which allowed Hamas militants to enter Israel and carry out attacks.

A 3-day cease-fire started at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, an Israeli delegation traveled to Egypt with the aim of reaching a deal for a long-term truce.

The fighting has claimed nearly 1,900 Palestinian lives — most of them civilians. The war has also left 67 Israelis dead, all but three of them soldiers.

Previous international attempts to broker a temporary halt in the fighting failed.

The gaps between the sides are vast and the situation remains volatile — just minutes ahead of the start of the truce, shelling still echoed across Gaza.

Hamas wants Israel and Egypt to lift their seven-year-old Gaza border blockade. Israel wants Hamas to be disarmed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

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