UNITED NATIONS/NEW DELHI - Israel and Islamist militant group Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire in their conflict in the Gaza Strip starting on Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.The Prime Minister's Office announced that Israel will observe the cease-fire. The IDF said that work to destroy terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip would continue despite the truce.
The ceasefire will begin at 8 a.m. on Aug. 1, they said in a joint statement. The statement said "forces on the ground will remain in place" during the truce, implying that Israeli ground forces will not withdraw.
"Acknowledging a call by the United Nations and in consideration of the situation of our people, resistance factions agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian and mutual calm that begins at 8 a.m on Friday as long as the other side abides by it," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said."All the Palestinian factions are united behind the issue in this regard," Abu Zuhri said.
UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry has received assurances that all parties have agreed to the humanitarian cease-fire, the statement put out by the US and UN said.
"We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the cease-fire," Kerry and Ban said. "This cease-fire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence."
Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza clashes in Gaza and some 400 wounded. Three civilians have been killed by Hamas shelling in Israel. Gaza officials say 1,427 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed and nearly 7,000 wounded.The United Nations said nearly a quarter of the 1.8 million Palestinians in the Mediterranean enclave had been displaced, with more than 220,000 seeking shelter in UN facilities. Eight UN employees have been killed in the conflict.