Hamas, Israel begin new 72-hour ceasefire
Updated: 2014-08-05 16:43
Israeli soldiers arrive at a staging area near the border with Gaza Strip August 4, 2014. Palestinians accused Israel of breaking its own ceasefire on Monday by launching a bomb attack on a refugee camp in Gaza City that killed an eight-year-old girl and wounded 29 other people.[Photo/Agencies]
JERUSALEM/GAZA - A 72-hour ceasefire in the Gaza Strip brokered by Egypt came into effect at 8 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) Tuesday, marking the latest attempt to stop the Israeli-Palestinian clashes after previous efforts ended in failure.
The Israeli army announced that it would pull all troops out of the Gaza Strip shortly before the agreed ceasefire started.
The temporary truce was achieved Monday evening after a high-ranking Palestinian delegation, comprising of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), held talks with Egyptian mediators on reaching an agreement with Israel after more than four weeks of fighting.
According to the agreement, both sides mutually cease fire for 72 hours, refrain from fighting and hold indirect talks in Cairo to agree on the details of a permanent truce.
"The delegation told the Egyptian leadership the Palestinian side's approval of Egypt's invitation for ceasefire in Gaza Strip for 72 hours truce starting from Tuesday 05:00 GMT," head of the delegation Azzam al-Ahmed said in a statement on Monday evening.
Previous truces have ended prematurely with both sides accusing the other of breaking the agreements.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday night called on the Palestinians and the Israelis to abide by the ceasefire.
"Until the start of the ceasefire, the parties must exercise the utmost restraint," he said.
Meanwhile, he urged the parties "to commence, as soon as possible, talks in Cairo on a durable ceasefire and the underlying issues" and welcomed the proactive engagement of the Palestinian delegation.
"Such talks are the only way to sustainably stop the violence, which has cost far too many lives, and to change the untenable and tragic status quo in Gaza," said the UN chief, adding that the UN stands ready to lend its full support to these efforts.
RENEWED HOPE FOR END OF VIOLENCE
There have been at least four short humanitarian cease-fires announced since the conflict began, but each has been breached.
The latest agreement came after a previous 72-hour truce attempt, commencing at 0500 GMT on Friday, ended in failure when bombings, rocket fire and killings resumed in the conflict-torn Gaza Strip later Friday.
Ahead of the recently-agreed ceasefire, an Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip left 50 Palestinians dead and more than 200 wounded on Monday.
Paramedics and rescue workers said they managed to pull out bodies from various areas in the Gaza Strip, including those of women and children buried under the rubble since Thursday and Friday last week, during the seven-hour window for humanitarian aid announced by Israel earlier on Monday.
The Gaza health ministry said in an emailed press statement that the death toll since the beginning of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip had climbed to 1,868, with 9,470 others wounded.