Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire beginning on Friday. The United Nations and the United States announced today that the planned ceasefire would finally allow negotiations on a more durable truce in the 24-day-old Gaza war.
The U.S. and U.N. said they had gotten assurances that all parties to the conflict had agreed to an unconditional ceasefire. The statement was released in New Delhi, where Secretary of State John Kerry is currently traveling.
“This humanitarian ceasefire will commence at 8 a.m. local time on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place,” the statement said. “We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian cease-fire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the cease-fire.”
The ceasefire is much needed to give civilians a pause in the violence. Civilians in Gaza will be able to receive humanitarian relief and have time to bury the dead, take care of the injured, and restock food supplies. Water and energy infrastructure will also be repaired during this time.
There have been efforts to establish ceasefires in the past, but each were broken by renewed fighting.
The announcement came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to destroy Hamas’ tunnel network “with or without a cease-fire” and as the Palestinian death toll soared past 1,400.
“We have neutralized dozens of terror tunnels and we are committed to complete this mission, with or without a cease-fire,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks. “Therefore, I will not agree to any offer that does not allow the military to complete this important mission for the security of the people of Israel.”
There was no immediate Israeli comment on the announcement. Earlier, the Israeli military said it was calling up an additional 16,000 reserve soldiers to pursue its campaign against the Islamic militants.
At least 1,441 Palestinians have been killed, three-quarters of them civilians, since hostilities began on Jul. 8, according to Gaza health officials — surpassing the at least 1,410 Palestinians killed in Israel’s last major invasion in 2009, according to Palestinian rights groups.