Israel and Palestinians agree to 72-hour ceasefire

Tuesday 05 August 2014 10.51
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Israeli soldiers walk close to Israel's border with the Gaza Strip
Israeli soldiers walk close to Israel's border with the Gaza Strip
Israel declared a temporary ceasefire to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza
Israel declared a temporary ceasefire to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza

Israel and Palestinians groups have agreed a new 72-hour Gaza ceasefire that would start at 6am Irish time on Tuesday morning, according to a senior official in Egypt, which is hosting truce talks.

"Egypt's contacts with relevant parties have achieved a commitment for a 72-hour truce in Gaza starting from 0500 GMT tomorrow morning, and an agreement for the rest of the relevant delegations to come to Cairo to conduct further negotiations," the official told AFP.

A Palestinian delegation, including Hamas representatives, has been holding talks in Cairo with Egyptian mediators for a durable truce in Gaza.

Egypt has also invited senior Palestinian and Israeli delegations to Cairo for talks on a permanent ceasefire.

An Israeli spokesperson confirmed an Israeli delegation would be heading to Cairo for talks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier said Israel will not stop its military campaign in Gaza until long-term calm is restored.

"The campaign in Gaza is continuing," he said at the end of a seven-hour humanitarian lull which saw violence subside in the battered Palestinian enclave.

"This operation will only end when quiet and security is established for the citizens of Israel for a prolonged period," he said on a visit to the army's southern command.

The Israeli army said it was resuming its strikes on Gaza, after the end of the seven-hour lull.

"We are resuming our operations, including air strikes, against terrorist infrastructures in Gaza," spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told AFP.

He said troops were redeploying within Gaza while other forces were pulling out in a process which began on Saturday.

The Israeli operation in Gaza began on 8 July with an air campaign and expanded into a ground operation on 17 July with the aim of destroying a network of tunnels used for cross-border attacks.

Today, the Israeli army said it still has many missions to carry out in Gaza despite destroying all of the known tunnels.

"We will not leave; we will stay in the Gaza Strip; there are many more missions to complete," army spokesman Moti Almoz said on Channel 2 television.

"All of the tunnels we have located have been destroyed," he said, adding however that "talking about the end of the mission against the tunnels doesn't mean talking about an end to the Gaza mission."

The Israeli army confirmed it had begun pulling out some troops from Gaza during the weekend in what was largely understood to be the beginnings of a unilateral withdrawal which would not involve any negotiated agreement with Hamas.

Earlier, Hamas and Israel accused each other of launching attacks soon after the seven-hour Israeli ceasefire intended to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza came into force.     

Palestinians said Israel had bombed a refugee camp in Gaza City, killing an eight-year-old girl and wounding 29 other people, while Israel said at least four rockets had been fired at its territory from Gaza.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said the airstrike on a house in Shati camp took place after the truce was scheduled to start this morning.          

An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was checking the refugee camp attack.

She said four rockets had been fired from Gaza since the truce started and two had crashed inside Israel.

There were no reports of casualties or damage.

In Jerusalem, a heavy construction vehicle slammed into a bus, overturning it in what Israeli police said was a suspected terrorist attack.

No passengers were on the bus but a passerby died after being run over by the digger, and police said its driver was shot dead.

Israeli media identified the driver as a Palestinian from East Jerusalem.             

Israel announced a ceasefire to free up humanitarian aid and allow some of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by almost four weeks of war to go home.

The announcement met with suspicion from Gaza's ruling Islamist Hamas movement and followed unusually strong censure from the US at the apparent Israeli shelling yesterday of a UN-run shelter that killed ten people.

An Israeli defence official said the ceasefire, which ran from 10am to 5pm (8am-3pm Irish time), applied everywhere except areas of the southern town of Rafah, where ground forces have intensified assaults after three soldiers died in a Hamas ambush there on Friday.

The official said east Rafah was the only Gaza urban area in which troops and tanks were still present, having been withdrawn or redeployed near the border with Israel over the weekend.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Mr Netanyahu, told CNN that Israel's goal with the truce was "to assist with the humanitarian relief" of the people of Gaza.

Hamas, whose envoys are in Egypt for truce negotiations that Israel has shunned in anger at Friday's ambush in Rafah, said attacking the house after the Israeli ceasefire began showed the truce was a media stunt.

"We urge our people to continue to be cautious," said spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

Hollande calls for end to massacres

French President Francois Hollande has called for an end to massacres in Gaza. 

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, Mr Hollande said: "When I see what is happening with the Christians in Iraq, the minorities in Syria, massacres every day. What is happening too in Gaza, massacres. ... We have to act,"  

Gaza officials say 1,804 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed and more than a quarter of the impoverished enclave's 1.8 million residents displaced.

As many as 3,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed or damaged.

The four weeks of violence have also killed 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians, who were hit by rocket fire.

Toy store reverses decision on Israeli products 

Staff at a toy store in Dublin have been told to remove a sign advising customers that Israeli products were no longer available in the shop.

The sign was posted at the entrance to the Smyths store on Jervis Street last week.

In a statement, the company said it did not engage in political affairs.

It said the decision to remove products from the shelves had been reversed.

Keywords: gaza, israel