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Israel, Hamas to observe 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza
By JPOST.COM STAFF,REUTERS
07/26/2014
Hours after rejecting terms for a longer cease-fire, Netanyahu told Kerry that Israel will begin a 12-hour pause in hostilities starting at 8 a.m. Israeli time on Saturday, a US official said.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has told US Secretary of State John Kerry that Israel will begin a 12-hour pause in Gaza hostilities starting at 8 a.m. Israeli time  on Saturday, a US official said on Friday.

The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, made the comment when asked about Kerry's earlier statement on a goodwill gesture by Netanyahu at a press conference in Cairo.

Hamas also agreed to the 12-hour humanitarian truce to pause Gaza hostilities starting on Saturday, a spokesman for the Islamist group told Reuters.

Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Hamas, together with all militant groups in Gaza, had agreed to the temporary ceasefire he said was mediated by the United Nations.

Earlier Friday, Netanyahu's security cabinet rejected proposals for a longer cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and is seeking changes to the plans, a government source said on Friday.

The IDF stated that it would continue its operations to destroy Hamas terror tunnels throughout the Gaza Strip while the ceasefire is in place.

Kerry has been pushing for a halt to 18 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Full details of the proposed truce have not been released, but the government official, who declined to be named, said Israel wanted modifications before agreeing to any end to hostilities. Hamas has yet to respond to the proposed ceasefire.

France will host several foreign ministers, including those of the United States, Turkey and Qatar, in Paris on Saturday to coordinate efforts to try and enable a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, a French diplomatic source said.

"In support of initiatives currently under way, most notably Egypt's initiative, our objective is to converge all international efforts so that the conditions of a ceasefire can emerge as quickly as possible," the source said.

The meeting, which will start early on Saturday morning, will also be attended by Germany, Italy, Britain and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

There will not be any representatives at this stage from Israel, Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.

Kerry said on Friday that there are still disagreements on the terminology for a Gaza truce but he is confident there is a framework that will ultimately succeed.

He told reporters in Cairo that "serious progress" had been made on a truce but there was more work to do and he was sure that Netanyahu is committed to working towards a ceasefire.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also at the press conference, called for a seven-day humanitarian truce with an extendable 12-hour pause.

Earlier Friday, Channel 10 cited sources in the diplomatic-security cabinet who said that Israel viewed Kerry's bridging proposals as "a Qatari proposal with ornaments."

Qatar has been accused by Israel of providing financing and political support to Hamas. According to Channel 10, senior Israeli ministers have ruled as "out of the question" a cease-fire in which the IDF would be prevented from fully rooting out the threat of underground tunnels built by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Media reports indicated that Kerry's cease-fire proposal included a week-long halt to fighting so that humanitarian supplies could be distributed in Gaza.

Earlier on Friday, aides to Kerry were said to be cautiously optimistic regarding the chances of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, Channel 10 reported.

According to the report, officials close to the secretary of state said that there is a chance a week-long halt in fighting could be announced as soon as Friday evening.

Netanyahu convened his security cabinet on Friday to discuss Kerry's pitch for a limited humanitarian truce under which Palestinian movement would be freed up to allow in aid and for casualties to be recovered.

Earlier Friday, Channel 2 quoted "senior Hamas officials" as saying that the leadership of the Islamist group was "leaning toward" accepting the Kerry framework.

An Israeli official said the Netanyahu government envisages the initial halt to the fighting lasting seven days, during which the army would keep digging up tunnels on Gaza's eastern frontier.

"First Israel wants to hear Hamas's response to the (Kerry) proposals," an official said, adding that some members of the security cabinet also sought assurances that Gaza would be stripped of its remaining rockets under any extended ceasefire.

Officially, Hamas had no immediate comment on the proposal. On Wednesday, its leader, Khaled Meshaal, voiced support for a humanitarian truce, but only if Israel eased restrictions on Gaza's 1.8 million people.

Hamas wants Egypt to open up its border with Gaza, too, and has demanded that Israel release hundreds of prisoners rounded up by Israel in a sweep of the West Bank last month following the kidnap and killing of three Jewish teenagers.

Such concessions appear unlikely, however, as both Israel and Egypt consider Hamas a security threat.

One Cairo official said next week's Eid al-Fitr festival, which concludes Ramadan, was a possible date for a truce. But US officials were circumspect on progress made by Kerry in the mediation that has involved Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Abbas.

"Gaps remain between the parties, so his focus is on finding a formula that both sides can accept," a senior US official said on Thursday, adding that Kerry would not stay "for an indefinite amount of time".
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