Israel army okays 4-hour Gaza lull

Jerusalem - The Israeli army has agreed to observe a four-hour humanitarian lull in the fighting in the Gaza Strip, which will begin at 12:00 GMT on Wednesday, a statement said.

"The IDF [army] has authorised a temporary window in the Gaza Strip. The window will commence today between 15:00-19:00 (12:00 - 16:00 GMT)," it said.

But the lull would not apply in areas where ground troops were "currently operating", it said, without elaborating in a statement which came several hours after the army advanced deeper into the Gaza Strip.

"Residents must not return to areas that have previously been asked to evacuate," it added.

UN figures show that up to 240 000 people have fled their homes as a result of the fighting which began on 8 July and has so far killed more than 1 297 people in Gaza and 56 in Israel.