Gaza City (CNN) — Not long after Israel resumed its offensive in Gaza on Sunday because of “incessant rocket fire” from Gaza, Hamas said it agreed to a 24-hour U.N.-mediated cease-fire, a move that prompted the United Nations to try to get Israel to accept the hiatus.
Diplomats worked to forge what they call a “humanitarian pause” in the violence that has killed more than 1,000 people as the two sides fired across parts of the territory, alternating with periods of quiet.
The Israeli Security Cabinet had agreed to a U.N. request late Saturday to extend a cease-fire that started Saturday morning until midnight Sunday (5 p.m. ET Sunday) — on the condition that its military could keep dismantling and destroying Hamas’ tunnels, according to senior Israeli officials. Hamas, the militant group that is in control of the besieged Palestinian territory, rejected that idea, saying it won’t tolerate Israeli troops in Gaza. Militants in Gaza fired mortars and 40 rockets into Israel late Saturday and through Sunday morning, killing an Israeli soldier, the Israel Defense Forces said. Another rocket hit a home, wounding a civilian
“Following Hamas’ incessant rocket fire throughout the humanitarian window, which was agreed upon for the welfare of the civilian population in Gaza, the IDF will now resume its aerial, naval and ground activity in the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said. Then Hamas briefly changed its stance. It agreed to a 24-hour U.N.-mediated “humanitarian pause” starting at 2 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET), according to a text message from Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
“In response to the intervention by the United Nations and taking into account the conditions of our people and the upcoming Eid holiday, an accordance has been reached between Palestinian resistance groups to call a humanitarian calm for 24 hours,” Zuhri said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the call by Hamas for a cease-fire, saying it is violating its own call for a brief stoppage in violence.
“We hope we can get a sustainable quiet as soon as possible. I think the only path to do that is by adopting the Egyptian initiative” and by addressing two underlying issues, he said. Those issues are peace for Israel through demilitarizing Gaza and social and economic relief for the residents of Gaza. Hamas has rejected Egyptian officials’ request to accept a cease-fire, then enter dialogue to discuss its broader concerns. It began firing rockets again Sunday afternoon, blaming a “lack of commitment” from Israel. The IDF said it intercepted four rockets and another one landed in an open area.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is forming a delegation that would head to the Egyptian capital, Cairo, to engage in more diplomacy in the Mideast conflict, said Mohammad Shtayyeh, a senior adviser to Abbas. Abbas is waiting for a final answer on the initiative from Hamas leaders, who were meeting in Qatar, he said. Israel has a “hidden agenda,” Shtayyeh said.
“Israel wanted to keep Gaza separate from the rest of the Palestinian territory,” he said. He said Israeli troops occupy 50% of Gaza and should withdraw. Not doing so endangers chances for a cease-fire, he said.