UK & World News

  • 17 July 2014, 5:02

Israel And Hamas 'Accept Temporary Truce'

Israel and Hamas have agreed to halt fighting for five hours on humanitarian grounds on Thursday, while efforts continue to broker a longer-term truce.

A senior Israeli official told the Reuters news agency his country had agreed to a five-hour lull put forward by the UN, starting at 10am local time (8am BST).

A Hamas spokesman later said: "The Palestinian factions agreed to accept the offer from the United Nations for a cooling-down on the ground for five hours starting from 10 in the morning."

The temporary deal came just hours after a group of Palestinian children were killed when a shell landed on the beach they were playing on.

Gaza's health ministry described the attack as "cowardly", while the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said the deaths appeared to have been a "tragic outcome" of a strike aimed at Hamas militants.

Promising a full investigation, an IDF spokesman added: "We have no intention of harming civilians dragged by Hamas into the reality of urban combat."

Earlier, Israel dropped thousands of leaflets, urging Palestinians living in northern and eastern parts of the territory to leave their homes.

It came amid continuing airstrikes on both sides of the border.

Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets in the first six hours of a failed ceasefire plan brokered by Egypt.

That led to fresh strikes on Gaza, home to 1.7 million people, with the homes of senior Hamas leaders reportedly among the targets.

More than 210 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed over the past week.

Israel, which has said it will "expand and intensify" its offensive, also confirmed its first death of the week-long conflict.

A man who was delivering food to soldiers suffered fatal wounds when a Hamas rocket struck the Erez crossing on the Gaza border.

Hamas was told it would "pay the price" for rejecting the ceasefire plan but officials for the group said they had not been consulted on the proposals and would not halt violence without a fully-fledged deal including Israeli concessions.

It wants an end to Israel's blockade of Gaza and the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt as part of a truce deal.

It also wants Israel to free Palestinians it re-arrested after releasing them in a 2011 exchange for an Israeli soldier held by Gaza militants for more than five years.

In automated phone calls to residents of Beit Lahiya and the neighbourhoods of Shijaiyah and Zeitoun in Gaza City, the Israeli military told people to leave.

But Sami Wadiya, who lives in one of the areas likely to be targeted, said: "We know it's risky but there are no secure places to go to."

The raids have already prompted around 17,000 people to flee their homes, with many taking refuge in UN schools.

Israeli aircraft have struck close to 1,700 times in raids the country claims are designed to stop rocket fire from Gaza.

Since July 8, more than 1,200 rockets have been fired by militants towards Israel, hundreds of which have been intercepted by the Iron Dome air defence system.

Advertisement