Israel, Hamas agree to humanitarian cease-fire

Israel and Hamas will observe a 72-hour cease-fire beginning Friday morning, according to Secretary of State John Kerry and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Kerry and Ban said the U.N. representative in Jerusalem, Special Coordinator Robert Serry, received assurances that “all parties agreed” to the three-day truce.

It will begin at 8 a.m. eastern time Friday, and last for 72 hours unless it’s extended. Forces on the ground will remain in place, the State Department said. It’s unclear whether that means Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) will continue its operation destroying Hamas-built tunnels that lead into Israel. 

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“During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies,” Ban and Kerry said in a joint statement. “Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.” 

Israeli and Palestinian delegations will immediately head to Cairo for negotiations with Egypt’s government to work on a more permanent cease-fire, they said. Egypt proposed a cease-fire in mid-July that Israel had accepted and Hamas dismissed.

As of Thursday, more than 1,400 Palestinians reportedly have died during the conflict — most of them civilians. Nearly 60 Israeli soldiers and several Israeli civilians have also died.

News of the cease-fire comes the same day the White House criticized Israel for the shelling of a United Nations-run school in Gaza on Wednesday that killed about 20 people.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the attack “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible” and said “all evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, called up 16,000 additional IDF reservists on Thursday and said the operation inside Gaza would not end until the tunnels are destroyed. 

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