News / Middle East

    Israel, Hamas Begin 12-Hour Cease-fire in Gaza Saturday

    An Israeli soldier stands on a tank outside the northern Gaza Strip, July 26, 2014.
    An Israeli soldier stands on a tank outside the northern Gaza Strip, July 26, 2014.
    VOA News

    Israel and Hamas have both agreed to a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza that began Saturday morning (at 8:00 a.m. local time, 0500 UTC).

    The Israeli army says it still will look for and destroy tunnels militants use to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

    A Hamas official says the militant group will also stop fighting for the 12-hour period.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Israeli media reports saying the Cabinet has rejected plans for a seven-day cease-fire are wrong.

    Kerry says no formal proposal for a truce has been presented and that Israel wants changes in some of the language that would be used.

    Kerry said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is committed to working toward a cease-fire.

    Kerry said the cease-fire would be in honor of Eid - the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

    The top U.S. diplomat said a weeklong cease-fire would be used to bring all sides together to look at the underlying issues that have led to weeks of deadly violence between Israelis and Palestinians.  

    Kerry is in Paris to continue his diplomatic mission.  He said efforts towards a cease-fire will not stop, saying the whole world wonders when both sides will come to their senses.

    Israel's nearly three-week air and ground campaign against Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza has killed more than 800 Palestinians.  Most of the victims have been civilians, including many children.  At least 32 Israeli solders and two civilians have died.

    Israel is demanding Gaza be demilitarized and insists it has the right to defend itself against terrorist rocket attacks.

    Palestinians want an end to Israeli and Egyptian blockades on Gaza, which have strangled the economy and prevented Palestinians from traveling.

    Kerry said the violence will not bring a long-term solution to the problems in the Mideast.

    ​Kerry’s proposal calls for prompt negotiations among Palestinian and Israeli officials on major economic, political and security issues. Representatives of other nations would attend the talks.   

    "None of us is stopping," Kerry said, adding he will continue negotiations from Paris on Saturday.

    Kerry described a broad timetable for continued talks and said there was "no formal proposal" presented to the Israeli cabinet for approval by vote. Kerry said Israeli Prime Minster Netanyahu has assured him that he wants to find a way forward.

    Kerry met for hours in Cairo with Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shukri, and the United Nations’ chief, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

    "The people of Gaza have bled enough," Ban told reporters in Cairo, appearing with Kerry. "First, stop the fighting...Second start talking. There is no military solution."

    Ban has decried the conflict’s impact on civilians.

    On Friday, five Palestinians were killed in the West Bank as the conflict in Gaza spread. The death toll rose to more than 800 Palestinians – mostly civilians – 35 Israelis and one foreign worker in Israel. 

    Egypt has mediated previous conflicts between Israel and Hamas, including a 2012 cease-fire. The United States, Israel’s closest ally, does not negotiate directly with the militant Palestinian group, which it has branded a terrorist organization.

    Israeli security cabinet meeting

    Netanyahu convened his security cabinet on Friday and Israeli media said the cabinet continued to meet into the night.

    An Israeli official said the Netanyahu government envisaged an initial halt to the fighting lasting seven days, during which the army would keep digging up tunnels on Gaza's eastern frontier.

    According to Western and Palestinian officials, once a humanitarian lull takes hold, delegations from Israel and Hamas would arrive in Cairo for indirect talks that could lead to a lasting truce.

    “First Israel wants to hear Hamas's response to the [Kerry] proposals,” the official said, adding that some members of the security cabinet also sought assurances that Gaza would be stripped of its remaining rockets under any extended cease-fire.

    Hamas had no immediate comment. On Wednesday, its leader Khaled Meshaal voiced support for a humanitarian truce, but only if Israel eased restrictions on Gaza's 1.8 million people.

    Hamas wants Egypt to open up its border with Gaza, too, and has demanded that Israel release hundreds of prisoners rounded up by Israel in a sweep of the West Bank last month following the kidnap and killing of three Jewish teenagers.

    • Palestinian protesters take cover during clashes with Israeli troops at a demonstration against the Israeli offensive in Gaza, near the Israeli settlement of Bet El, near Ramallah, West Bank, July 25, 2014. 
    • Israeli soldiers run during clashes with Palestinian protesters at a demonstration against the Israeli offensive in Gaza, near the Israeli settlement of Bet El, near Ramallah, July 25, 2014. 
    • An Israeli army officer gives explanations to journalists during an army organized tour in a tunnel said to be used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, July 25, 2014. 
    • Palestinians take cover during clashes with Israeli soldiers following a protest against the Israeli military action in Gaza, at an area near the Beit El Jewish settlement and the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 25, 2014. 
    • An Israeli soldier aims his gun at Palestinian protesters during clashes in Hawara village near the West Bank city of Nablus, July 25, 2014. 
    • Smoke and flames are seen following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, July 25, 2014.
    • Palestinians look at a damaged vehicle amid debris in an area hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, July 24, 2014.
    • Palestinian volunteers donate blood at the blood bank of Ramallah Hospital in the West Bank, July 25, 2014.
    • Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over the Gaza Strip, July 25, 2014.
    • Palestinians carry the body of Mohammed al-Araj during his funeral in the Qalandia refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 25, 2014.
    • Relatives and friends of Israeli soldier Daniel Pomerantz, who was killed during fighting in Gaza, mourn during his funeral in Kfar Azar, near Tel Aviv, July 24, 2014.
    • Israeli soldiers carry the flag-draped coffin of their comrade Daniel Pomerantz, who was killed during fighting in Gaza, at his funeral in Kfar Azar, near Tel Aviv, July 24, 2014.

    Calls for calm increase

    Calls for a cease-fire have escalated, especially since Thursday, the 18-day-old conflict's deadliest day, when more than 100 Palestinians were killed.

    The U.N. secretary-general said he was “appalled” by Thursday’s shelling of a United Nations-run school being used as a shelter from the violence. The victims included "women and children, as well as U.N. staff," Ban said.

    The U.S. State Department said it was "deeply concerned," though it did not explicitly blame Israel for the shelling.

    Israel's military, which has hit two other U.N. shelters in recent days, did not say it was behind the attack, but acknowledged fighting in the area Thursday.

    The military said it warned civilians to vacate the area, but blamed Hamas for not allowing them to leave before the deadline.

    Palestinian protesters have clashed with Israeli troops in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    Palestinian medics say five Palestinians died in the West Bank during protests Friday. Demonstrators in the Palestinian territory marched in solidarity with Gaza in the northern village of Hawara. Thousands also demonstrated overnight, in what many observers are calling the West Bank's biggest protest in a decade.

    In East Jerusalem, dozens of Palestinian protesters hurled rocks and threw Molotov cocktails at an Israeli army checkpoint.   

    In Iran, government-run broadcasts said “millions” of people joined rallies nationwide to mark solidarity with Palestinians on Friday for its annual al-Quds Day event. Quds is the Arabic word for Jerusalem, one of the most important cities in the Muslim faith. The yearly show of support occurs on the last Friday of Ramadan.

    Clashes continue

    On Friday, dozens of Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli police near Jerusalem's Old City and clashes erupted in other parts of the West Bank near Hebron and Nablus.

    Police in Jerusalem barred entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque to men younger than 50 years. But many gathered on streets outside the barricades to hold prayers on the last Friday of Ramadan.

    The Palestinians were staging what they called a day of rage against the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.

    In addition to killing hundreds, the conflict has wounded thousands and destroyed thousands of homes and a dozen hospitals and clinics.

    Hebrew University Professor Moshe Ma'oz said the outbreak of violence was inevitable due to rising tensions after the collapse of a nine-month effort to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

    "It's a vicious cycle of struggles and conflict,” Ma’oz said. There are no saints in the Middle East and certainly not on this issue. Everybody contributed to it."

    The collapse led to a reconciliation agreement between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah which dominates the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

    The accord angered the Israeli government, which considers Hamas a terrorist organization. Some Israeli officials have called for the operation in Gaza to continue until Hamas is destroyed.

    Hamas invincible?

    The head of East Jerusalem's International Peace and Cooperation Center, Rami Nasrallah, it isn’t possible to destroy Hamas.  

    “I mean, we're not talking about a gang of 10 or 200 people,” Nasrallah said. “We're talking about a major social, political power within the Palestinian society, whether in Gaza or in the West Bank."

    He said the Israeli strikes in Gaza rather have strengthened support for Hamas among Palestinians and obliged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to express public support for the demands of Hamas.
    VOA's Scott Bobb contributed to this report from Jerusalem. Some additional information provided by Reuters and AFP.

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    Comments page of 4
        Next 
    by: Zani from: South Africa
    July 26, 2014 8:54 AM
    The 'top'....really? What was his ummmm 'vote'?

    by: Ralph Spyer from: Chicago
    July 26, 2014 8:08 AM
    America gives Israel 8.5 million dollars a day,125 Billion of our tax dollars do date. I would start spending this money to help Americans, Americans from Central America, Americans veterans could used some help, schools teachers need that money, our roads, our police,. Being a Vietnam veteran I love my country ;if Jewish Americans love Israel enough to serve in there military then move there, and take your fifth column with you

    by: ali baba from: new york
    July 26, 2014 7:24 AM
    After several days of hostility ,it should permanent. It seems to me that Israel is taking advantage of People Hate Hamas . Egypt do not like them. they are terrorist organization. so attacking is ok. It is disgrace for Israel to continue killing people indiscriminately. The thrust of blood never satisfied They attacking children school and Excuse their action that Hamas is keeping weapons In school., It is pretext. All Hamas have guns and Israel is attacking with tank, armored vehicle. and fright jet Israel is a country that has double standard . Israel is acting as a civilized country, .but their action is barbaric. revenge revenge

    by: Anthonybellchambers from: London UK
    July 26, 2014 6:27 AM
    The state of Israel was imposed upon the Muslim Middle East by a then newly formed United Nations that represented only a fraction of the global community in 1947. Even then, the resolution that was framed by a post-war lobby in America - that had persuaded a reluctant President Truman it would be politically expedient - was only passed in the face of vociferous opposition from all the Arab States that would be directly affected and who threatened a defensive war if the non-binding resolution was implemented. However, the state of Israel was established, in 1948; the Arabs did wage a defensive war - but lost, thereby establishing a cuckoo in the Muslim nest.

    That cuckoo, has since transmogrified itself into a nuclear-armed bird of prey that, unlike everything in nature, kills not for food but for power. This is now a creature that has outgrown its foreign habitat and needs to be caught, overpowered and returned to breed in its native America where it will have a sufficiency of land and food to sustain itself and procreate. Then Palestine can be returned to the indigenous people of the region, the Muslim Arabs, and there can be peace, west of the River Jordan, for the first time in nearly three quarters of a century.

    Tony Bellchambers, London

    by: Tone-Deaf Arab League from: Tanah Melayu
    July 26, 2014 4:48 AM
    US Kerry should get some advice from Malaysian Prime Minister who had helped to resolve a long-time conflict between millitant group & Phillipine govt. So far, US approach seems to end up with no positive outcome. What's Sec-Gen Arab League doing so far? How can Arab League become tone-deaf & color-blind towards Palestinian plight for almost 60 years? What is Arab League doctrine towards Palestine? Is it going to be the same doctrine for the next 100 years to come?

    by: Art from: uk
    July 26, 2014 4:40 AM
    Israel was founded on stolen land. UK had no right to give Palestine to Jewish people. Jews with items stolen by Nazi demand compensation... So do Arab's. This is root of conflict. It did not start 3weeks back. This fundamental injustice needs addressing. No hope of peace without that.

    by: Gervas from: Mwingi-Kenya
    July 26, 2014 3:06 AM
    Israel has the right to defend itself against rocket fire from the Hamas terrorists !.It's just natural for one to defend himself /herself from an enemy !.What would have been possible for Israel to do when rockets were fired to it ? .Lets be fair to Israel !

    by: daf
    July 26, 2014 2:42 AM
    head line: israel declares cease fire.

    actual story: hamas agrees to cease fire: israel agrees to violate it.

    by: Gerarda from: Cali
    July 25, 2014 7:26 PM
    Explain how Hamas gets rockets and weapons thru the blockade, but they can't get food or other supplies? And if they have time and resources to build miles of tunnels, why don't they use those talents to plant crops and feed "their" people.
    In Response

    by: bigchimp from: Dallas
    July 26, 2014 3:18 AM
    because they aren't interested in improving the lives of their people...in their minds, destruction of Israel will help everyone. what about the billions of dollars in aid on top of tax revenue Israel already pays? why has life continued to get worse? when Israel left Gaza they said it would be the Singapore of the Middle East? what happened?

    Gaza has become a concentration camp because of the actions of Hamas - every Israeli move has been reactionary. a reaction to irresponsible and selfish actions of those within Gaza.
    In Response

    by: claude from: cali
    July 26, 2014 3:18 AM
    Sam, did you know that the Jews lived in Israel well before the Arab conquest in the 7th century? And did you know that despite being killed by all the nations that exciled them, there was always a Jewish community in Israel? In fact, they lived also in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, because in biblical times this was the border of Israel. So the concept of "occupied" Gaza is not accurate. The reason it is used is because when the British split Palestine between Jews and Arabs, all Arab countries opened war on Israel, and Israel won, and some of the territories it gave back for peace (like Sinai, given back to Egypt) while others it didn't. Regarding Gaza, it's the last thing Israel wants. Even the Egyptians don't want it. In fact, Israel decided to just get all the Jews out of there in 2006, and just disengage. At the time, I supported the struggle of the Palestinian but today after I see that all they want is to kill Israel, I realize they don't really want to build a nation. They want to kill and destroy Jews. And they are so committed to this mission that they take all the money donated to them, some of it by Jews, to build tunnels, that they protect with their own kids and wives. I am really interested to hear why you support them. And why the Jews don't deserve their land back, which is less then 1% of what the Arabs have.
    In Response

    by: Momok Tomok from: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    July 26, 2014 3:03 AM
    Explain how Palestinian still can live although blockade has been imposed by Zionist regime? Thanks to the tunnel. If not, Palestinians will surely become malnourished like people at Africa.
    In Response

    by: Harry from: Netherlands
    July 26, 2014 2:55 AM
    Please stop whining about being occupied! If the Palestinians of Gaza were replaced by Chinese it would quickly become a new Singapore, situated strategically between 3 continents, so close to the Suez Canal with good relations all around. But as long as the are consumed by hatred for the 'Israeli Entity' they are only torturing themselves
    In Response

    by: Micah from: California
    July 26, 2014 1:37 AM
    In response to Gerarda, that is an exellant point. In response to Sam Alkhateeb, is it ok for Hamas to attack Israel and expect Israel to do nothing? Is it ok for Hamas to use civilian structures to operate out of and to store weapons and attack from? Israel is in the right and you are a sad excuse for a human.
    In Response

    by: Fairney from: RSA
    July 26, 2014 1:05 AM
    The Israelis commandeered all the water long ago.The israelis have been stealing land from the Palestinians by force of arms supplied by the US for the last 60 years. Until Israelis stop treating Palestine like the Warsaw Ghetto there will never be peace.
    In Response

    by: Sam Alkhateeb from: Dallas
    July 25, 2014 8:46 PM
    Are you saying it is ok for Israel to kill Palestinian children and turn gaza to a concentration camp..? How dare you defend an illegal apartheid occupation. ...shame on you

    by: Sam Alkhateeb from: Dallas
    July 25, 2014 7:22 PM
    Israeli right wing government is acting like nazis. ..they turned Gaza Strip into a huge concentration camp. ..starving Palestinian children and stealing Palestinian land...look at all those illegal settellments...Jewish fanatic settlers terrorist attacks on Palestinian families goes unpunished. ...and we pay our tax dollars to finance this illegal occupation and turn Israel into apartheid state...shame on us.
    In Response

    by: Silverback
    July 26, 2014 7:32 AM
    Typical liberal raghead rant trying to change actual history Sam. Hamas is the aggressor here and always has been. Guess who they were elected by, you got it, the Palestinians! And guess who protects their weapons with women and children, WOW, right again, the Palestinians. See, your not as goofy as your post leads us to believe.
    In Response

    by: George Griselda
    July 25, 2014 7:56 PM
    Sam Alk,,pretty much not buying this Sam hamas is a terrorist organization. They have intentionally NOT provided shelter for their citizens, encouraged them to remain in areas the IDF begged people to leave,. They have fired 2000 rockets at Israel including at Ben Gurion Airport, an international airport that has thousand sod innocent passengers passing through it of all nationalities. Thast terrorism Sam. hamas has used supplies to build attack tunnels into Israel, sent suicide bombers at Israel. They are, by any definition an outlaw rogue violent jihadist organization no different than ISIS, Islamic Jihad, Al Quaeda, Muslim Brotherhood or ANY of the other Islamist TERRORIST organizations dedicated to destruction of all creeds, nationalities, religions and people who do not agree with them. THEY are the Nazis and Israel has a right to defend itself from attack. Leave Israel ALONE. No radical terrorism supporting Islamists please.
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