UNITED NATIONS, July 31 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Thursday Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire beginning Friday, during which time Israelis and Palestinians would enter talks in Cairo on a durable truce.
"This humanitarian ceasefire will commence at 8 a.m. local time on Friday, August 1, 2014," said a Ban-Kerry joint statement read out to the press here by Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric. "It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place."
"We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire," the statement said.
"This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much- needed reprieve from violence," said the statement. "During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies."
"Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period," the statement said. " Israeli and Palestinian delegations will immediately be going to Cairo for negotiations with the government of Egypt, at the invitation of Egypt, aimed at reaching a durable ceasefire."
"The parties will be able to raise all issues of concern in these negotiations," the statement.
Ban and Kerry also thanked key regional stakeholders for their vital support for this process, and counted on a continued collaborative international effort to assist Egypt and the parties in reaching a durable ceasefire as soon as possible, it added.
There was no immediate comment from either Hamas or Israeli forces, but the UN representative in Jerusalem and special coordinator, Robert Serry, received promises that all parties have agreed to the cease-fire, according to reports.
Both Ban and Kerry were in Cairo last week to push for a 72- hour humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, but efforts to reach a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants had failed, as the Hamas movement conditioned any truce with an end to seven years of an Israeli blockade imposed on the coastal enclave.
As the crisis in Gaza continues unabated, UN Under-Secretary- General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos on Thursday urged the parties to protect civilians amid the ongoing conflict, which has resulted in thousands of casualties and caused widespread displacement and destruction.
Nearly four weeks of conflict have left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead and 6,000 injured, Amos reported. More than 80 percent of those killed have been civilians; 251 children. Israel has faced rocket fire, and the hostilities have resulted in the deaths of three civilians and 56 soldiers, with dozens injured.
She said the current crisis in Gaza takes place against the backdrop of decades of instability, poverty and vulnerability resulting from repeated outbreaks of hostilities and the ongoing blockade on land, air and sea.
More than 80 percent of Gaza's population of 1.8 million -- more than half of them children under the age of 18 -- were already dependent on humanitarian aid before the outbreak of hostilities.
The United Nations estimates that up to 440,000 people in Gaza are now displaced, almost 24 percent of the population. More than 240,000 are being hosted in schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), while others are seeking refuge wherever they can -- in government buildings, hospital grounds or with families and friends.