Israel, Hamas agree 72-hour ceasefire from Friday
Mai YAGHI, AFP
August 1, 2014, 1:39 pm TWN
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 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 spokesman stressed it was dependent on Israel reciprocating.
"Hamas and all the resistance movements have accepted a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire from 8:00am 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 8:00am 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 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 Friday, a spokesman for the local emergency services said.
Six of them were killed in an Israeli air strike in the same area, the spokesman said.
Their deaths bring the toll on the Palestinian side to 1,450 since the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip began on July 8.
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.