Israel decided on Saturday to extend the cease-fire in Gaza for an additional 24 hours, according to CNN.
The United Nations had earlier requested that Israel extend Saturday’s original 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire, but cabinet ministers were tentative after Hamas, the militant Islamist group Israel is targeting, fired rockets into the southern part of Israel just minutes after the previously-agreed-upon 8 pm end time. Bloomberg reported that the cabinet first approved a four-hour extension.
It was unclear whether Hamas will accept the longer extension. CNN reported that Osama Hamdan, a spokesman for the group, told them “what was declared was a positive sign” but they were “still waiting for clarification from mediators.” Bloomberg and CBC News had earlier reported that Hamas rejected the shorter extension.
CNN says that the new 24-hour cease-fire will begin at 5 pm ET “on the condition that Israel Defense Forces continue dismantling and destroying militant tunnels from Gaza into Israel.”
Those tunnels have been a particular source of tension, as The Inquisitr reported earlier.
The Associated Press says that the Israeli Cabinet extended the truce until midnight on Sunday while making clear that the military would take action should Hamas continue its attacks from Gaza.
The AP also quoted another Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, as saying in a text message that the terms currently being demanded by the Israeli government are “not acceptable.”
Earlier Saturday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon pressed for “a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza as a prelude to renewing a political process as the only way of achieving a durable peace.”
“We owe to the people of both Israel and Gaza our renewed effort to consolidate this pause in fighting into a more sustainable ceasefire,” he said in a statement.
But there seemed to be little trust on the Palestinian side, even after the Israeli cease-fire announcement.
“There won’t be any talks about extending the cease-fire as long as there aren’t talks about breaking the siege,” Israa Al-Mudalal, of the Gaza Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told CNN, adding that Israel was “escalating the situation.”
“We can’t stop the firing [of rockets] until we have a real solution to this problem,” Al-Mudalal said. “There will be no peace as long as the siege continues.”
The fighting has persisted for three weeks, leaving a heavy toll, according to USA Today:
More than 1,000 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed since the conflict began on July 8. Another 6,000 have been wounded. In Israel, 43 have died, including 40 soldiers, two civilians and a Thai worker.
As we reported earlier, the original 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza began early Saturday local time after Israeli officials expressed opposition to a plan proposed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry is in Jerusalem to try negotiating a long-term resolution to the current crisis, something that has so far eluded him.
[photo: Cyrano’s Journal Today]