‘Humanitarian’ truce extended as Gaza death toll crosses 1,000 mark
JERUSALEM: Israel and Hamas have agreed to prolong a ‘humanitarian’
truce in Gaza until midnight (10pm UK time) as the Palestinian death toll has
crosses the 1,000 mark. The four-hour extension comes as world leaders continue
their attempt to thrash out a wider ceasefire in Paris.
Parts of Gaza came under heavy fire minutes before the
break in hostilities at 8am (6am UK time), with Israeli shells reportedly
killing 18 members of a Palestinian family. The Al Najar family had apparently
been trapped in their house in Khuzaa village for two days when the shells hit.
Doctors in Gaza said 132 bodies have been pulled from
rubble since the ceasefire started, taking the number of Palestinians killed in
19 days of violence to more than 1,000. Three Israeli soldiers were also killed
in combat prior to the ceasefire, meaning 40 military personnel have died since
their operation began on July 8. A total of three civilians have been killed by
rocket fire into Israel.
Israel is reportedly continuing its search of Hamas
tunnels during the truce - though both sides have largely observed a break in
fire that is allowing Gazans to stock up on supplies. Hamas sources told Sky
News the group was willing to join Israel in prolonging the 12-hour ceasefire.
Israeli cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz said a further
extension would be discussed by the security cabinet on Saturday night. US
Secretary of State John Kerry remains "confident progress can be
made" on a seven-day truce that would "bring people together to
create a more durable plan".
However, on Friday evening Israel’s defence minister
told troops, “You need to be ready for the possibility that very soon we will
instruct the military to significantly broaden the ground operation in Gaza.” Kerry
is in Paris for talks with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and other
counterparts from Europe, Turkey and Qatar.
Earlier, Mr Kerry told a news conference in Cairo a “fundamental
framework” for peace was in place and that it would "ultimately succeed. The
world is watching tragic moment after tragic moment unfold and is wondering
when everybody is going to come to their senses,” said Kerry.
An unnamed source from the Israeli government said
they were seeking modifications as the truce proposal “leans too much towards
Hamas demands.” In London, anti-war protesters marched from the Israeli embassy
to the Houses of Parliament. Similar protests took place in France and Germany.