Three-Day Gaza Ceasefire Comes Into Effect
Gazans and Israelis had their first quiet morning of calm under seething disquiet as a 72-hour temporary ceasefire came into effect early today after Israel accepted a joint proposal from the US and the UN which took into consideration a key demand by the Jewish state.
Israel had been demanding that any ceasefire deal include a condition that allows its troops to remain in Gaza over the 72-hour truce which it says it would utilise to locate and neutralise tunnels infiltrating into Israel.
The announcement of the temporary truce deal between the two sides while international mediators work on a lasting ceasefire, was made in a statement released in New Delhi, where US Secretary of State John Kerry is on a visit.
Representatives of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which controls the West Bank, and an Israeli delegation are currently in Cairo to work on a sustainable truce beyond the next 72 hours.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders are also camping in the Egyptian capital but talks with Israel are carried out informally through mediators as the militant factions do not recognise the Jewish state.
"We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire," Kerry, along with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in the announcement.
"This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence," they added.
Britain's former prime minister and currently Quartet Representative for Middle East, Tony Blair, in a sigh of relief expressed hopes that the temporary ceasefire would mature into a lasting one saving innocent lives.
"This gives the sides, through the Egyptian mediators, the opportunity to reach a sustainable arrangement that will address Israel's security concerns, as well as ensure a better future for Gazans," Blair said.
Other world leaders have also welcomed the 72-hour ceasefire deal hoping to convert it into a more permanent one.
The PA delegation is likely to be headed by President Mahmoud Abbas himself who had earlier expressed dismay at being left out in international efforts to work out a ceasefire agreement.
The international community recognises PLO and the PA as the sole legitimate representatives of the Palestinian masses.
The Israeli delegation at the talks will include internal security agency Shin Bet chief, Yoram Cohen, and the head of the Policy and Political-Military Affairs department in the Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad.
Palestinian media reported that the PA leadership was working alongside Egypt, UN, Qatar, Turkey, US, Russia and others to reach a long-term truce.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian death toll in the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza surpassed that of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 as the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli attacks reached 1,450 yesterday in its 25th day.
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 1,417 Palestinians were killed during Operation Cast Lead, which was the longest conflict between the two sides lasting 22 days, before the current fighting began.
The death count on the Israeli side also saw a significant increase with 61 soldiers killed this time compared to 10 in 2008-09. Three Israeli civilians and a Thai national working in Israel also died in rocket and mortar attacks.
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