Hamas accepts 24-hour Gaza humanitarian truce, Israel considers move

Photo: Hamas accepts 24-hour Gaza humanitarian truce, Israel considers move / Arab-Israel Relations

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, Reuters reported.

"It has been agreed among resistance factions to endorse a 24-hour humanitarian calm," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters, saying the calm should start at 2.00 p.m.

An Israeli official said the truce was being reviewed.

However, as 2.00 p.m. 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 missiles at them.

Israel had called off its own 24-hour truce earlier in the day after Hamas launched rockets into southern and central 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 many children, have been killed in the 20-day conflict. Israel says 43 of its soldiers have died, along with three civilians killed by rocket and mortar fire out of the Mediterranean enclave.

Israel and the Hamas Islamists who control Gaza had agreed to a 12-hour ceasefire 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 U.N. truce request on Sunday in light of the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which is 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 told Army Radio.

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