Israel, Hamas agree on Gaza ceasefire


GAZA – Israel and Palestinian group Hamas have agreed on a ceasefire to end eight days of fierce fighting in the Gaza Strip, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, whose country has been playing a key mediating role in the crisis, announced on Wednesday.

The truce was due to come into effect at 1900 GMT.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had accepted a US recommendation to give the Egyptian ceasefire proposal a chance.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who held talks in both Jerusalem and Cairo, welcomed the ceasefire, saying “the US and Egypt will work together to support the next step.”

US President Barack Obama commended Netanyahu for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal and expressed his appreciation for his efforts to work with the new Egyptian government to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and a more durable solution to end the conflict.

Mr. Netanyahu had some hours before the truce announcement convened a forum of nine senior ministers to discuss the truce. The meeting took place just hours after an attack on a public bus in Tel Aviv injured at least 17 people. It was the first Palestinian bombing attack in the city in more than six years.

Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defence was launched one week ago, after days of incessant rocket fire on Israel.

By the time the ceasefire was announced, Israel had bombed some 1,500 targets in the Strip, while more than 900 missiles launched by Hamas militants had hit Israel.

Some 154 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli attacks, Gaza Health Ministry officials said, with over half of them civilians. Four Israeli civilians and a soldier have been killed by Palestinian rockets.

The ceasefire announcement came amid intensifying international efforts to broker a truce following concerns that Israel might launch a ground invasion if rocket attacks continued. Israel has amassed troops and tanks on the border with Gaza.

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