Hamas Announces New Gaza Ceasefire

hamasPalestinian militant group Hamas has announced a 24-hour ceasefire after Israel ended an earlier truce amid continuing rocket fire from Gaza.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said the ceasefire would start from 14:00 local time (11:00 GMT).

There is no formal Israeli response but a military spokesman said the offer was “an opportunity perhaps”. Some 1,060 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 46 Israelis, three of them civilians, have died since July 8. Israel launched its military offensive with the declared objective of stopping Hamas firing rockets from Gaza into Israel.

On July 18, it extended operations with a ground offensive, saying it was necessary to destroy tunnels dug by militants to infiltrate Israel.

On Saturday, Israel accepted a UN request for a 24-hour ceasefire until the end of Sunday, although it said ground forces would continue to destroy tunnels used by Hamas during the pause.

The Israeli ceasefire followed a 12-hour truce, observed by both sides on Saturday, which enabled Gaza residents to gather supplies and retrieve bodies buried under the rubble.

However, the Israeli military announced on Sunday morning it had decided to resume its air, ground and naval raids on Gaza in response to “incessant rocket fire” from Hamas.

Hamas had initially rejected the Israeli offer, saying it would only halt rocket attacks once Israeli troops left Gaza and the displaced were allowed to return home. But shortly after Israeli raids resumed, Hamas said it had decided to agree to a humanitarian truce.

As a preparation for the end of Ramadan and in response to the UN mediation and also regarding our people’s living circumstances, we have agreed with all Palestinian factions to give a 24-hour humanitarian ceasefire starting from 14:00 on Sunday,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

Suggesting the Hamas statement might be an opportunity, Israeli military spokesman Col Peter Lerner nevertheless added a note of caution: “This is a bit premature and we are watching the situation carefully.

“But perhaps indeed they have decided again to hold their fire and it will enable us to deal with and sort out these terrorist tunnels which have been built along our border.”

Correspondents in Gaza said loud explosions could be heard in several districts as Israeli forces resumed their air strikes. Palestinian eyewitnesses reported heavy shelling to the east of Gaza City.

Eight Palestinians have died in Sunday’s attacks, according to Gazan health officials. — BBC

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) earlier said at least 20 rockets had been launched toward Israel since Saturday night, despite the truce.

It added that a soldier was killed by mortar shell fired from Gaza early on Sunday morning. — BBC

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