Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have agreed to a three-day humanitarian cease-fire, the longest break in more than three weeks of fighting, the U.S. and United Nations said.
Secretary of State John Kerry and UN chief Ban Ki-moon announced the accord in a joint e-mailed statement, saying that the UN has “received assurances that all parties have agreed” to it. The truce will start at 8 a.m. local time today, and will give “innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence,” they said.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will head to Cairo for negotiations hosted by Egypt’s government “aimed at reaching a durable cease-fire,” Kerry and Ban said. During the truce period, “forces on the ground will remain in place,” they said.
The fighting in Gaza has left more than 1,400 Palestinians and almost 60 Israelis dead since it escalated on July 8. Kerry and Ban last week sought to broker a temporary halt that would allow discussion of underlying disputes, without reaching a deal. Obstacles to a lasting halt to hostilities include Israel’s insistence that Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, must be disarmed, and the Hamas demand for an economic embargo on the territory to be lifted.
While several humanitarian pauses in the fighting have been declared since July 8, none lasted more than a few hours. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he won’t sign up to a truce that curtails Israel’s ability to destroy the tunnels used by Hamas to carry out attacks.
Netanyahu’s office had no immediate comment when contacted about the Kerry-Ban announcement.
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