Israel, Hamas agree to 12-hour cease-fire

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 12-hour cease-fire beginning on Saturday morning as international diplomatic efforts to resolve the Gaza conflict continue.

al-monitor US Secretary of State John Kerry (C), surrounded by aides, sits in the service hallway of a hotel in Cairo, July 25, 2014. Photo by REUTERS.

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palestine, john kerry, israeli-palestinian conflict, israel, gaza

Jul 25, 2014

Israel and Hamas have agreed to observe a 12-hour humanitarian pause in the fighting in Gaza, beginning on Saturday morning, officials said Friday, July 25.

The 12-hour humanitarian pause, which international negotiators hope will be extended for another 12-24 hours, comes as US, UN, Arab, Turkish and European leaders continue intense diplomatic efforts to try to negotiate a seven-day truce, beginning with the Eid holiday Sunday evening marking the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, Secretary of State John Kerry told journalists in Cairo Friday.

“I think we have made serious progress,” Kerry said, speaking at a Cairo press conference with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, head of the Arab League Nabil el-Araby and his Egytian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

“We have a basic outline that is approved by everybody,” Kerry said of a provisional seven-day cease-fire plan. “People believe that if the circumstances are right, a cease-fire makes sense, and people would like to see the violence end. But it has to be in ways that neither [party] feels their interests are compromised. And that is what we are working on.”

The discussions will continue in Paris on Saturday, Kerry said. France will host Gaza cease-fire talks including Kerry, as well as his foreign minister counterparts from Turkey, Qatar, the UK, France and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

But there were signs that elements of both major warring factions had misgivings about the prospective cease-fire.

Shortly before Kerry’s 9 p.m. Cairo press conference, Israel’s security cabinet unanimously rejected the latest version of Kerry’s cease-fire plan, Israeli media reported, citing Israeli sources as saying the cabinet saw the proposal as more aligned with Hamas’ requests than Israel’s. Kerry, for his part, denied he had submitted a formal cease-fire plan that the cabinet could have voted to reject.

Israel insists that it be allowed during any cease-fire to continue its operations to destroy an extensive Hamas tunnel network discovered in Gaza. It also rejected that Hamas be included as an equal party to it at negotiations that are planned to take place during the seven-day humanitarian pause to try to reach a longer-term solution to the third major outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in just six years.

Kerry, however, pointedly warned that protracted fighting in Gaza has the potential to spark an escalation in violent protests in the West Bank, Jordan or beyond — a prospect that is causing mounting alarm to regional leaders, he said. 

“The whole world is watching a tragic moment and wondering when … [they're] ever going to come to their senses,” Kerry said. “Both the Israelis and the Palestinians need and deserve to lead normal lives. … It’s time for everyone to recognize that violence breeds violence. Short-term tactical gains will not inspire the long-term [change] that is necessary and that both parties really want.”

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