Hamas accepts Gaza lull
Updated: 2014-07-28 20:37
By Agencies in Jerusalem
Earlier humanitarian truce fell apart after rockets fired at southern Israel
Hamas Islamist militants have agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce in their conflict with Israel in the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the group said on Sunday, hours after fighting between the sides resumed.
"It has been agreed among resistance factions to endorse a 24-hour humanitarian calm," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, saying the calm should start at 2 pm.
An Israeli official said the truce was being reviewed.
However, as 2 pm came and went, the sound of heavy Israeli shelling could be heard within Gaza and sirens sounded in Israeli communities near the border area, suggesting Palestinian militants had fired rockets at them.
Israel had called off its own 24-hour truce earlier in the day after Hamas launched rockets into southern Israel, and Palestinian medics said at least 10 people had died in the wave of subsequent strikes that swept Gaza.
Some 1,060 Palestinians, mainly civilians and including children, have been killed in the 20-day conflict. Israel said 43 of its soldiers have died.
Israel and the Hamas Islamists who control Gaza had agreed to a 12-hour cease-fire on Saturday to allow Palestinians to stock up on supplies and retrieve bodies from under the rubble.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Cabinet decided to extend the quiet until midnight on Sunday, on condition that its forces could continue to track down and destroy militant tunnels that criss-cross the Gaza border.
After initially rejecting the extension, Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri said Hamas had accepted a UN truce request on Sunday in light of the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which was expected to start in the next couple of days.
Netanyahu was due to convene his Cabinet later on Sunday to decide how to move forward, and at least one senior minister said Israel must step up its offensive.
"After what we saw this morning, it is clear we need to resume fighting with even greater force," Communications Minister Gilad Erdan said.
Israel launched its Gaza offensive on July 8 to halt rocket attacks by Hamas and its allies, which have struggled under an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade on Gaza.
After bombardment failed to quell the outgunned guerrillas, Israel poured ground forces into Gaza 10 days later, looking to knock out Hamas's rocket stores and destroy the vast network of tunnels.
Diplomatic efforts led by US Secretary of State John Kerry to end the 20-day conflict have shown little sign of progress. Israel and Hamas have set conditions that appear irreconcilable.
Hamas wants an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza before agreeing to halt hostilities. Israel has signaled it could make concessions toward that end, but only if Gaza's militant groups are stripped of their weapons.
"Hamas must be permanently stripped of its missiles and tunnels in a supervised manner," Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said, "in return we will agree to a host of economic alleviations".
A young Palestinian girl holds a placard readin top the war against the children "during a demonstration on Sunday in the West Bank northern city of Nablus. Jaafar Ashtiyeh / Agence France-Presse
(China Daily 07/28/2014 page12)