Israel, Hamas agree to 72-hour ceasefire

Gaza City - Israel and Hamas agreed to begin a 72-hour ceasefire from 0500 GMT on Friday, alongside a diplomatic push for a more durable end to the bloodshed after almost four weeks of fighting.

Just hours before the ceasefire came into force 14 more Palestinians were reported killed by Israeli tank and air fire in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile the Israeli army said that five of its soldiers died in mortar fire near the Gaza border, underlining the need for a negotiated truce.

Hopes of an end to the bloodshed rose early on Friday after US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Israel and Hamas had agreed a three-day ceasefire.

Both sides swiftly confirmed their commitment to a truce, after 25 days of bloody confrontation.

While the proposal was accepted by Hamas, a spokesperson stressed it was dependent on Israel reciprocating.

"Hamas and all the resistance movements have accepted a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire from 08:00 Friday which will be respected by all these movements if the other party also observes the ceasefire," Fawzi Barhum said.

"Israel has accepted the US/UN proposal for a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire beginning 08:00am Friday [local time]," a source in the Israeli prime minister's office said.

Speaking in New Delhi earlier, Kerry said after the ceasefire went into force, Israeli and Palestinian representatives, including from Hamas, would also begin more durable truce talks in Cairo in a move confirmed by Egypt.

But he said Israeli forces would remain inside Gaza.

Earlier on Thursday, Israel vowed it would not accept any ceasefire that did not allow troops to continue destroying tunnels used by militants to attack Israel.

The ceasefire was a joint US-UN initiative and will give civilians "a much needed reprieve", Kerry said.

"This is a respite, a moment of opportunity - not an end. It's not a solution," he warned, saying Israel would still be allowed to carry out "defensive" operations to destroy tunnels.

The 14 latest Palestinian victims included a woman and at least two children killed by Israeli tank fire in the southern Gaza Strip early on Friday, a spokesperson for the local emergency services said.

Six of them were killed in an Israeli air strike in the same area, the spokesperson said.

Their deaths bring the toll on the Palestinian side to 1 450 since the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip began on 8 July.

UN figures show that around two-thirds of the victims were civilians, drawing sharp criticism from around the world.

Meanwhile the Israeli army said in a statement that "5 IDF [army] soldiers were killed during operational activity along the border with the Gaza Strip when a mortar was fired at the forces."

Their deaths bring the Israeli military toll to 61, since the beginning of "Operation Protective Edge," the statement added.

Tunnel vision

The ceasefire announcement came after the UN Security Council expressed "grave disappointment" that repeated calls for a truce had not been heeded, and demanded there be a series of humanitarian breaks to ease conditions for civilians trapped in the war-torn territory.

Egypt has invited Israel and the Palestinian Authority to send delegates to Cairo for truce talks, after the 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza was announced.

"Egypt emphasises the importance of both sides committing to the ceasefire so the negotiations can take place in a favourable atmosphere," the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The delegations are expected to start arriving in Cairo later on Friday.

Frank Lowenstein, the US Middle East envoy, was also expected to depart on Friday for the Egyptian capital, a State Department official said.

Noor Bhai 2014/08/01 06:17:52 AM
The truth is being exposed. How do you call a truce when Israel says it has to continue illegal occupation ? Carry on the genocide Israel And May God humiliate and destroy you!
Enig Ma 2014/08/01 06:19:04 AM
Peace please.
Enig Ma 2014/08/01 06:21:13 AM
Israel, please withdraw from East Jerusalem, the West Bank. Palestine, please acknowledge the Jewish State and respect its security. One death is one too many. Humanity must prevail.
Bob Shawcroft 2014/08/01 06:31:17 AM
I hope Egypt invited the ANC to Cairo? They didn't? I guess they don't care about the opinions of incompetent morons
Anthoula Joshua 2014/08/01 06:43:07 AM
Watch this space. For the sake of the people I hope this lasts, however Hamas will break it. No doubt in my mind. They don't care about loss of life of innocent Palestinians or Israeli's.
Cyberfriend 2014/08/01 07:02:48 AM
A wise person once said "The isreali Zionists upon whom is the divine wrath ,the people of lies,slander,betrayal,conspiracy and trickery.the killers of Prophets and consumers of usury and bribes.They have the most evil of hearts of all and the worst attitude.There way is enmity and stirring up hatred.They reprsent the house of trickery and lies. They do not see anything wrong in rejecting and disbelieving in Prophets eg Jesus.whom they dont like,they respect not the ties kinship or of covenant.They dont respect the rights of those who agree with them,or show any compassion,nor do they show any justice or fairness to those who work with them.There is no safety and security who mix with them.The most evil amongst them is the most intelligent,and the cleverest of them is the one that cheats the most.They are the most ill tempered of people,with the gloomiest of house and,there greeting is a curse have bad manners and they are filled with hatred." Somehow now with the killing and murder of innocent children it seems true.
Martin Pienaar 2014/08/01 07:22:46 AM
HAMAS run out of Rockets? Need time to replenish their stock...
Nobby Poltice 2014/08/01 07:28:10 AM
If you are a god believer and think I am wrong then here is a little test to see who is right. For the next year I want all Jews, Christians and Muslims to pray to the god at least 20 times a day saying one of the following prayers. Jews : Dear god, please intervene and stop the Palestinians firing rockets at us and trying to kill Israelis. Christians : Dear god, please intervene and bring peace to the Middle East and stop Muslims and Jews hating each other so much. Muslim : Dear god, Please intervene and destroy the illegitimate Israel and let Islam rule over the Holy Land. That is 365 x 20 = 7300 prayers for each person. The almighty god must hear these prayers and he has the power to answer and not be to confused to choose to answer one of them. Then, this time next year review this check list. Does Israel still exist? Are the people of Gaza still living in poverty? Are the Jews and the Palestinians still killing each other? Is there peace in the Middle East? Jews : then ask yourself, why? Christians : then ask yourself, why? Muslims : then ask yourself, why?
Ennio Morricone 2014/08/01 07:35:51 AM
@Enigma, you are just right if they can withdraw from East Jerusalem, westbank, then the whole world will be against Hamas if they still mantains the charter motto, but to be frank with you Hamas will recognise Israel if Palestinians are given freedon to live in peace in their ancestral land .
Mohamed Faruk Chohan 2014/08/01 08:03:14 AM
The former employee at US National Security Agency (NSA), Edward Snowden, has revealed that the British and American intelligence and the Mossad worked together to create the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Snowden said intelligence services of three countries created a terrorist organisation that is able to attract all extremists of the world to one place, using a strategy called “the hornet’s nest”. NSA documents refer to recent implementation of the hornet’s nest to protect the Zionist entity by creating religious and Islamic slogans. According to documents released by Snowden, “The only solution for the protection of the Jewish state “is to create an enemy near its borders”. Leaks revealed that ISIS leader and cleric Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi took intensive military training for a whole year in the hands of Mossad, besides courses in theology and the art of speech.