Obama urges ‘immediate’ truce in call to Israeli PM

Earlier, Hamas belatedly agreed to respond to a U.N. request to monitor the situation and allow a 24-hour humanitarian truce in Gaza

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U.S. President Barack Obama, in a phone conversation on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, emphasized the need for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, the White House said.

Urging a permanent end to hostilities on the basis of the 2012 ceasefire agreement, Obama added that “ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza,” Reuters reported.

Earlier, Hamas belatedly said it had agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce with Israel, shortly after Israel announced a resumption of hostilities in Gaza following a day-long pause.

“In response to the U.N.’s intervention request to monitor the situation ... it has been agreed between the resistance factions that a 24-hour humanitarian truce will start from 2 p.m. (1100 GMT),” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement, AFP reported.

The announcement came after the Israeli army announced earlier Sunday that it was resuming its raids on Gaza by land, sea and air after Hamas continued firing rockets, ending a unilateral 12-hour humanitarian truce.

“Following Hamas’ incessant rocket fire throughout the humanitarian window, which was agreed upon for the welfare of the civilian population in Gaza, the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] will now resume its aerial, naval and ground activity in the Gaza Strip,” an army statement said.

“Due to flagrant violations of humanitarian remission by Hamas, the IDF is now resuming offensive activities,” army spokesman Peter Lerner wrote on Twitter.

Following the announcement, three Palestinians were killed in shelling and explosions could be heard in Gaza City, medics said.

Two men were killed in shelling near the border in central Gaza, while a third was killed near Khan Yunis in the south, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

More than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed in Gaza since the beginning of the conflict 20 days ago.

Hamas had originally rejected the extension of the pause in hostilities, saying Israeli tanks first had to withdraw from the territory.

“No humanitarian ceasefire is valid without Israeli tanks withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and without residents being able to return to their homes and ambulances carrying bodies being able to freely move around in Gaza,” Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum said in a statement, AFP reported.

Following the rejection of Hamas, air raids sirens sounded in southern and central Israel warning of incoming rocket fire, Reuters news agency said.

Israeli media reported that a couple of the rockets landed in open areas and another was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

An Israeli soldier was killed by shell fire near the Gaza Strip, taking to 43 the number of troops killed since the start of ground operations on July 8, AFP quoted an army spokeswoman as saying.

“The soldier was killed by a shell that was fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory,” she said.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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