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‘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.