Israel, Hamas begin 12-hour humanitarian truce

Israel, Hamas begin 12-hour humanitarian truce

PanARMENIAN.Net - Israel and Hamas have begun a 12-hour humanitarian truce in Gaza, BBC News report.

Israel said it would continue to "locate and neutralize" Hamas tunnels during the pause, which began at 08:00 local time (05:00 GMT), and vowed to respond if it came under attack.

International efforts to negotiate a longer seven-day ceasefire are still ongoing.

Israeli strikes killed 19 Palestinians overnight, medical sources said. Two Israeli soldiers were also killed. Over 870 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 38 Israelis have died since the conflict started on July 8.

Foreign ministers from the U.S., UK, Turkey and Qatar are among those meeting in France later on Saturday, July 26, to try to negotiate a longer-term truce.

A spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri said late on Friday that there was "national consensus on a humanitarian truce... for 12 hours on Saturday".

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) later confirmed the truce on Twitter. "We will respond if terrorists choose to exploit this time to attack IDF personnel or fire at Israeli civilians," it said in a statement.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he was still confident of a longer ceasefire, despite media reports that Israel had rejected one proposal.

The announcement of the humanitarian truce came shortly after Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned that ground operations in Gaza could soon be broadened "significantly".

Hamas has previously said it would not agree to any long-term truce that did not lead to an end to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

According to the UN, Israeli air strikes killed a further 68 people in Gaza on Friday, bringing the total number of Palestinian dead to about 870.

There were also clashes during protests in the West Bank which left at least five Palestinians dead.

Palestinians in the West Bank had been taking part in a "Day of Rage" against Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile Israel's military said its Iron Dome defense system had intercepted several rockets fired across the border by Hamas. Later it said that two of its soldiers had been killed in Gaza during the night.

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