Saturday, 28th February 2015

Israel declares ceasefire as truce talks under way

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The Israeli military announced a seven-hour ceasefire Monday in parts of the Gaza Strip as Palestinian and Egyptian delegations are meeting in Cairo for a more durable truce.

The temporary ceasefire, beginning from 10:00 a.m. (0700 GMT), aims to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid and for displaced Palestinians to return to their homes, according to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

The truce will not apply to areas east of the southern Gaza town of Rafah, "where clashes were still ongoing and there was Israeli military presence," according to the statement.

The IDF warned that should the truce be violated, the army will fire back.

The Israeli ceasefire met with suspicion from the Gaza-ruling Hamas movement, which said the truce was a unilateral move meant to divert people's attention off "Israel's massacres" in the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

"Israel's humanitarian truce in some areas in Gaza is unilateral," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zohri said in a press statement. "We do not trust such proposals. Our people must be highly cautious."

Meanwhile, a Palestinian delegation is in Cairo for talks with US and Egyptian officials for a more durable ceasefire. Israel did not send a representative to the talks after blaming Hamas for violating a ceasefire Friday.

A 72-hour ceasefire collapsed Friday after Hamas militants and Israeli forces clashed near Rafah. The two sides accused each other of breaching the truce.

A Palestinian official close to the delegation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Xinhua that the Palestinian delegation would brief the Egyptian side on several points its members had agreed upon.

The points include a mutual ceasefire, the pullout of Israeli ground forces, the lifting of Israel's blockade, and guaranteed entrance of aid and free movement of goods and individuals, he said.

They also proposed expanding the fishing area for Gaza fishermen to 12 miles off the coast instead of three miles and ending the no-go zone at the borderline area.


The Israeli shelling outside a UN-run school in Gaza on Sunday morning has drawn strong criticism from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said "the attack is yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law."

The shelling killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians among the almost 3,000 refugees taking shelter at the school.

The US Statement Department also said Sunday that the United States is "appalled" by the "disgraceful" shelling outside the school.

"We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties," department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

According to UN data, almost half a million Palestinians have been displaced since Israel launched its assault on July 8, among whom 240,000 are currently residing in UN schools.

The Palestinian death toll has exceeded 1,800, with nearly 10,000 injured. Most of the casualties were civilians. The Israeli side has confirmed the death of 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians.

JERUSALEM/GAZA, Aug. 4 (Xinhua)



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