Israel agrees to three-day Gaza truce

The truce would start at 0500 GMT on Tuesday and Egypt says talks could soon follow the cessation of hostilities

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Israel has agreed to an Egyptian proposal for a three-day ceasefire in a four-week-old Gaza war, Reuters quoted an Israeli official as saying Monday.

The truce would start at 0500 GMT on Tuesday, the official, who spoke to the agency on condition of anonymity, said.

"We agree to begin implementing the Egyptian initiative. If the ceasefire is upheld there will be no need for any presence of [Israeli] forces in the Gaza Strip," the official said.

Egypt signals truce

Earlier, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry had signaled that the two warring sides – Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip – could reach agreement on the suggested 72-hour truce.

In a statement, Egypt’s foreign ministry said that the talks would follow the ceasefire.

This is the second cease-fire Egypt has declared. Prior to the Israeli ground incursion, Egypt announced an unconditional cease-fire to be followed by talks in Cairo and the opening of the border crossings.

Israel accepted, but Hamas rejected it saying that it demands international guarantees to lift the blockade, release prisoners and open crossings before a ceasefire.

Growing EU pressure

The development Monday came as Israel appeared to be losing Western sympathy for the offensive it launched on July 8 against the Gaza Strip during which it launched more than 4,600 airstrikes across the crowded seaside area.

The war broke out on July 8 when Israel launched an air offensive in response to weeks of heavy rocket fire out of Hamas-controlled Gaza. It expanded the operation on July 17 by sending in ground forces.

On Sunday an Israeli strike next to a U.N. school killed at least 10 people, among them civilians who had been seeking refuge from the violence, which prompted global outrage including a rare condemnation from Israel-ally the United States.

French President Francois Hollande on Monday urged action against bloodshed in the Middle East, notably in Gaza, where more than 1,800 Palestinians have died in Israeli attacks against Hamas over the past month.

On Monday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Israel’s right to security did not justify its actions in Gaza and called for a political solution to be "imposed" by the international community.

"How many more deaths will it take to stop what must be called the carnage in Gaza?" Fabius asked in a statement.

In neighboring Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron warned Israel that it is "wrong and illegal" to target civilians, in the British leader’s strongest comments so far on the Gaza conflict.

Earlier on Monday, Palestinians said Israel had bombed a refugee camp in Gaza City, killing an eight-year-old girl and wounding 29 other people, in an air attack they said disrupted the start of a previous truce effort.

Israeli military wraps up operation

Reuters said the military was wrapping up the main objective of the ground assault, the destruction of cross-border infiltration tunnels from Gaza, and it has told residents of some towns they could return home.

It quoted a military spokeswoman as saying that some forces were still in action inside Gaza, but the operation was drawing to a close. Media reports said troops had destroyed the last tunnel on their list of targets.

Gaza officials say 1,834 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the 29-day offensive. Israel has confirmed that 64 of its soldiers have died in combat, while Palestinian shelling has killed three civilians in Israel.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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