Israel and Gaza Strip militants agreed to Egypt’s proposal for another 72-hour truce, giving negotiators time to try to craft a more enduring accord after a month of violence in the Hamas-ruled territory.
Media on both sides said the cease-fire would go into effect at midnight. More than 1,900 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, have been killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and 67 people have died on the Israeli side, including three civilians.
Israel withdrew ground troops from Gaza on Aug. 5, saying it battered militant rocket operations and destroyed all of the 32 known tunnels armed groups had built to stage cross-border attacks. That truce unraveled Aug. 8 amid renewed rocket fire, and Egyptian mediators have been laboring since to reinstate it.
Palestinian envoys attending truce talks in Cairo agreed today to the Egyptian proposal, Hamas’s official Al-Rai news agency said. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment on the record, confirmed his country had also accepted Egypt’s plan.
Israel’s Channel 2 TV, citing an unidentified official, said Israel would send a delegation to the Cairo talks if rocket fire on Israeli territory were to stop. Air raid sirens alerting Israelis to rocket attacks continued to sound after news of a truce emerged.
Hours earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said he wouldn’t order a return to talks before the bombardments ended.
Israel’s five-year credit default swaps rose last week to the highest since January, while the benchmark TA-25 stock index has remained largely unaffected by the conflict, advancing 0.3 percent since Israel opened its military operation against Gaza militants on July 8. The shekel has hovered near a three-year high.
Last week’s cease-fire was negotiated as a possible springboard for a more lasting settlement. Previous truces have failed to resolve underlying issues that have resurfaced violently three times in the past six years.
Israel, which has watched militants accumulate more sophisticated and extensive arsenals over the years, wants Gaza demilitarized. Hamas is pressing to end a blockade Israel imposed in 2006, citing security concerns, after the militant group won Palestinian elections.
Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely sealed, and the twin blockades have confined most Gazans to the impoverished enclave of 1.8 million and crippled their economy by restricting the movement of goods.
Deadly violence has resumed since the cease-fire unraveled last week, though at a lower level. Israel has struck 170 targets since the last cease-fire crumbled, and militants have fired more than 130 rockets at Israeli territory, according to the military. Gaza Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Qedra said 27 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli assaults.
Israel has defended its use of military might and says armed men account for 750 to 1,000 of the Palestinians killed in the current conflict. It also accuses Hamas of deliberately putting civilians in harm’s way, in part by operating from within densely populated areas and in or around mosques, schools and hospitals. Like the U.S. and European Union, it classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization.
As Netanyahu goes for another truce attempt, members of his cabinet called for steps to crush Hamas militarily, including the possible reoccupation of Gaza, which Israel evacuated in 2005 after 38 years.
“We are approaching the point where we have to reach a decision,” Communications Minister Gilad Erdan said in remarks broadcast on Channel 2. “We can’t continue tolerating this situation.”