UNITED NATIONS/GAZA/WASHINGTON, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Israel and Hamas agreed in the early hours of Friday to a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in their bloody conflict in the Gaza Strip, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon announced separately on Thursday.
The ceasefire will begin at 8 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) on Friday, Aug. 1, they said in a joint statement, which also noted that "forces on the ground will remain in place" while the truce is effective.
"We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire," said the two who have been quite engaged in facilitating a comprehensive truce deal, adding that "This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence."
GROWING GAZA DEATH TOLL
As Israel continues with its massive and round-the-clock military operation in the Gaza Strip, the body count of killed Palestinians has kept rising cruelly yet unsurprisingly day in and day out.
On Thursday night, an Israeli airstrike on a house in the refugee camp of Nuseirat in central Gaza Strip killed 11 family members and wounded ten others in the neighborhood, medics said.
Ashraf al-Qedra, Gaza health ministry spokesman, said earlier that three Palestinians were killed, including a child in the camp attack.
Witnesses said that the three dead Palestinians were pulled out from under the rubble of their house in the refugee camp by rescue workers. Al-Qedra said ten more people were injured in the house attack.
Meanwhile, paramedics said that three more Palestinians, including a woman, were killed, and five injured in two separate airstrikes on the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis after their houses were struck by missiles.
Ever since Israel launched its Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip on July 8, a total of 1,434 Palestinians were killed, while about 8,000 others wounded, said al-Qedra, adding that most of the victims were civilians.
Also on Thursday, the Islamic Hamas movement slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for saying that his army will continue the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.
"This means that he (Netanyahu) is gambling and bringing both his army and his people to the unknown," said Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman of Hamas movement in Gaza.
Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza said in a short press statement published on Hamas news websites that Netanyahu " lives in a crisis and he receives heavy strikes of the Palestinian resistance."
"Netanyahu is seeking for an exit out of his crisis," said al- Hayya, adding that "there will be no ceasefire without meeting all the demands of the Palestinian resistance."
Meanwhile, Israel is also facing an ever growing force depletion. Since Israel's ground incursion to Gaza started earlier this month, 56 Israeli soldiers were killed in the battles, and more than 100 troopers were wounded.
However, compared to the large quantity of civilian deaths of Gazans, Israel has seen very low death toll on that. So far, three Israeli civilians were killed in the past three weeks in Hamas' rocket attacks.
The Islamic resistance movement have fired more than 2,800 rockets and mortars deep into the lands of Israel, yet many of them were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket system.
UN CALLS FOR CEASEFIRE
The UN Security Council on Thursday called for humanitarian pauses in Gaza, and kept searching for the possibility of reaching an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
All 15 members expressed "grave disappointment" that previous calls for a truce were left unheeded in a statement issued to the press after a four-hour meeting at UN headquarters in New York.
UN humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos urged brief humanitarian breaks so as to allow relief workers to reach those in need. The UN relief agency chief in Gaza also demanded immediate actions should be taken, warning that the Gazans were "facing a precipice" as both sides refused to put down their arms.
At the meeting, Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour called on the Security Council to adopt a tough resolution. "Enough is enough, this genocide should be stopped immediately," Mansour said.
In response, Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor said Israel had nodded to "every humanitarian ceasefire" in the past, and accused again Hamas of using civilians as shields.
He also showed some aerial photos, which, according to him, depicting Hamas rocket launch sites that were close to schools.
U.S. SEES PROGRESS IN TRUCE BID
U.S. State Department said on Thursday that Secretary of State John Kerry has "made some progress" in his efforts to help reach a ceasefire in Gaza.
"We know we're not there yet. But I think we have made some progress," said deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.
She also said the secretary is very engaged in trying to facilitate a final agreement for an immediate truce, adding that despite that "progress is always hard to quantify, but we believe we are getting closer."
The top U.S. diplomat had spoken quite a number of times on Thursday with his Qatari counterpart, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the UN special envoy for the Middle East Robert Serry.
Responding to the Pentagon's decision to allow Israel to restock their troops by tapping into U.S. ammunition storages, the spokeswoman refuted the move would prolong the bloody conflict.
"The strategic and tactical decision the Israelis make about whether to accept a ceasefire and enter into one I don't think is influenced by whether we give them some ammunition tank rounds," she said.
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