Israel and Hamas on Thursday agreed to a five-hour ceasefire on humanitarian grounds at UN’s request after nine days of intense fighting in Gaza that has claimed 226 Palestinian lives, as hectic parleys were on in the region to broker a permanent truce.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry asked Israel for a humanitarian ceasefire following an incident in which four Palestinian children were killed on a beach in Gaza.
“Factions of the resistance have agreed to accept the offer of the UN regarding a ‘field calm’ for 5 hours from 10 am until 3 pm (local time) Thursday for humanitarian needs,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zhuri said in a text message.
Israel had already accepted the proposal, however, its military warned it would not sit idle if attacked.
“Should the humanitarian window be exploited by Hamas or other terror organisations for the purpose of launching attacks against Israeli civilian or military targets the IDF will respond firmly and decisively,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
An effort to permanently stop the killing was stalled when Israel resumed airstrikes following a brief, one-sided cease-fire brokered by Egypt. While Israel paused for six hours, Hamas leaders rejected the deal and continued firing rockets.
They said they had not been consulted, and complained the deal did not address their demands for greater freedom for Gaza’s 1.8 million residents.
Ahead of Thursday’s temporary ceasefire, hostilities continued this morning with Israel’s airstrikes, taking the death toll to 226 killed and 1,678 wounded, Gaza medical services said.
The one fatality on the Israeli side so far was a man killed Monday after being hit by a mortar shell at the Erez border crossing.
Meanwhile, hectic parleys were on in the region to broker a permanent truce between Israel and Hamas.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held talks in Cairo yesterday, as did Quartet envoy Tony Blair, in an effort to come up with a package that would be acceptable to both sides.
Abbas met with Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk, and Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, and even Tunisia and France were reportedly involved in efforts to quell the violence.
President Barack Obama also backed Egypt’s efforts to broker a ceasefire, offering US’ full diplomatic support.
“Over the next 24 hours, we’ll continue to stay in close contact with our friends and parties in the region, and we will use all of our diplomatic resources and relationships to support efforts of closing a deal on a ceasefire,” Obama said.
Anger is rising over civilian deaths — including those of four Palestinian children killed while playing on the beach.
The boys, aged 9 to 11, died yesterday when a shell from an Israeli gunship exploded near them at the Al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza, according to Palestinian officials.
Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said that it was “carefully investigating” the incident, adding continued…