December 17, 2014
Israel, Hamas agree on new 72-hour ceasefire
Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to an Egyptian proposal for a new 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza starting at 2100 GMT, officials from the warring sides said.
"Israel has accepted Egypt's proposal," a senior Israeli government official said, adding Israeli negotiators would return to Cairo tomorrow to resume indirect talks with the Palestinians if the truce held.
The Israeli team had flown home on Friday before a previous three-day truce expired and hostilities in the month-old conflict resumed.
A Hamas official said Palestinian factions had accepted Egypt's call and that the Cairo talks would continue.
In a statement, Egypt's Foreign Ministry urged "both sides to exploit this truce to resume indirect negotiations immediately and work towards a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement".
Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "Israel will not negotiate under fire" and warned of a protracted Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip if rocket salvoes continued.
Hamas has demanded an end to Israeli and Egyptian blockades of the coastal territory and the opening of a Gaza seaport - a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said negotiations during the new truce would be "the last chance" for a deal.
Israeli air strikes and shelling on Sunday killed nine Palestinians in Gaza, including a boy of 14 and a woman, medics said, in a third day of renewed fighting.
One air strike destroyed the home of Gaza City's mayor, Nezar Hijazi, across the street from the Reuters bureau where reporters and cameramen hit the floor as the explosion occurred. There were no casualties in the attack because Israel telephoned warnings to residents in the house and neighbouring buildings.
The Israeli military said it targeted 11 "terror squads" in Gaza among them gunmen involved in or preparing to fire rockets.
Since the previous ceasefire expired, Palestinian rocket and mortar salvoes have focused on Israeli kibbutzim, or collective farms, just across the border in what appeared to be a strategy of sapping the Jewish state's morale without triggering another ground invasion of the tiny Gaza Strip.
A month of war has killed 1,910 Palestinians and 67 Israelis while devastating wide tracts of densely-populated Gaza. But international pressure for a ceasefire has been weaker than in earlier rounds of Israeli-Palestinian conflict given other international security crises, notably in Iraq and Ukraine, distracting major powers.
However, the violence over the past three days has been less intense than at the war's outset, with reduced firing on both sides. Israel withdrew ground forces from Gaza on Tuesday.