6:17 pm - Wednesday November 4, 2015

12-hour Gaza humanitarian ceasefire to start: Israel

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Israeli firefighters put out fire on burning cars in an apartment building parking lot after it was hit by what Israeli police say was a rocket fired by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, in Ashdod

The Israeli military says a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza will start on Saturday morning.

The military says in a statement that the lull will start at 8 a.m. local time on Saturday and end at 8 p.m. local time. The statement warns that the military “shall respond if terrorists choose to exploit” the lull to attack Israeli troops “or fire at Israeli civilians.” It also says that “operational activities to locate and neutralize tunnels in the Gaza Strip will continue.”

A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said earlier on Friday that the group had agreed to a 12-hour lull, starting at 8 a.m. local time on Saturday.

Gaza sides agree to lull but truce efforts stall

Israel-Hamas fighting looked headed for escalation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed on Friday to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal and Israel’s defence minister warned Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation “significantly.”

In a “Day of Rage,” Palestinians across the territory, which had been relatively calm for years, staged protests against Israel’s Gaza operation and the rising casualty toll there. In the West Bank, at least six Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, hospital officials said.

The latest diplomatic setbacks, after several days of high-level diplomacy in the region, signalled that both sides are digging in and that the fighting in Gaza is likely to drag on.

Israel wants more time to destroy Hamas military tunnels and rocket launching sites in Gaza, while the territory’s Hamas rulers want international guarantees that a Gaza border blockade will be lifted before they cease fire.

Hardest hit

In Gaza, Israeli airstrikes and tank shelling have killed more than 860 Palestinians, wounded more than 5,700, displaced tens of thousands and destroyed hundreds of homes, Palestinian officials said. In dozens of cases, Israeli attacks killed three or more members of the same family, according to U.N. figures, and civilians make up three-quarters of the dead.

Gaza militants have fired close to 2,500 rockets at Israel since July 8, exposing most of Israel’s population to an indiscriminate threat that has killed three civilians. Thirty-six soldiers have also been killed in battle in Gaza.

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