Israel declares temporary 'humanitarian truce'

Photo: Israel declares temporary 'humanitarian truce' / Arab-Israel Relations

"Between 10:00 and 16:00 (700-1300 UTC), the Israeli Defense Forces will cease operational activity within the Gaza Strip and hold its fire," the IDF said in a statement on Wednesday, Deutsche Welle reported.

The pause is intended to allow Palestinians to restock supplies, but the IDF warned it would retaliate "firmly and decisively" if Hamas or other militant groups launched rocket attacks on Israel during that time.

The United Nations had called on Israel to agree to the "unilateral humanitarian pause" so that aid could be delivered to Gaza residents in need of food, water and other necessities.

Hamas said it was considering the ceasefire request.

"The proposal is being studied and when a decision has been taken it will be announced officially in a statement," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told the AFP news agency.

Children killed

Israel on Wednesday intensified its attacks on Gaza. A day of violence left more than a dozen people dead, including four children aged nine to 11 from the same family. The youngsters were playing on the beach when a pair of explosions believed to be from an Israeli naval gunship killed them and severely injured another child.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra afterwards gave the names of the four children, all cousins: Ahed Atef Bakr, aged 10; Zakaria Ahed Bakr, also 10; Mohamed Ramez Bakr, nine; and Ismail Mohamed Bakr, 11.

The Gaza beach has been frequently targeted for shelling by Israel's military during its latest offensive, which began July 8.

Israel's military said it had intended to target "Hamas terrorist operatives" in the strike, and that the deaths of the children "are a tragic outcome."

Rising death toll

The latest bloodshed brings the total number killed in Gaza during Israel's nine-day offensive to 220, Kidra said. More than 1,560 people have been wounded. Medics say 48 of those killed have been children.

It is the worst streak of Israeli-Palestinian violence in two-years.

According to the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), more than 80 percent of the victims have been civilians.

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