TEL AVIV — The United States and United Nations announced Thursday that Israel and Hamas agreed to a humanitarian cease-fire that is to start Friday morning for 72 hours.
In a joint statement, the U.S. and U.N. said they had gotten assurances that all parties to the conflict had agreed to an unconditional cease-fire during which there would be negotiations on a more durable truce.
The statement was released in New Delhi, where Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting with Indian officials.
Earlier Thursday, Israel had vowed to press ahead with its offensive in Gaza, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country's military would demolish Hamas' network of tunnels "with or without a cease-fire."
Netanyahu said he won't accept any truce that will not allow Israel to achieve its goal of destroying the tunnel network it says is used to carry out attacks inside Israel. Hamas said it will only lay down arms once Israel and Egypt give guarantees that a seven-year Gaza border blockade will be lifted.
The firm tone from Israel comes as its military called up 16,000 more reservists Thursday, in a move that may signal a widening of its military operation in Gaza. It is not clear how many fighters militant groups in Gaza have at their disposal.
Israel has activated 86,000 reserves since the conflict began on July 8 in a bid to end rockets fired by Hamas into Israel. The operation expanded July 17 to include dismantling the network of tunnels. Israel said it is no more than a few days away from destroying the remainder of the 32 cross-border tunnels it has uncovered.
The bolstering of its troop numbers follows days of intensive fighting that has claimed the lives of over 1,300 Palestinians — the majority of them civilians. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers as well as three civilians have been killed during the clashes.
Israel has drawn condemnation after a strike on a Gaza school being used as a U.N. shelter for refugees killed at least 16 people. Israel said its soldiers were returning fire. A crowded Gazan shopping area was also hit.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said the Israeli shelling was "outrageous" and "unjustifiable." And in Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay accused both sides of committing war crimes. Pillay also criticized the U.S. for its financial assistance with Israel's Iron Dome defense system while providing no such defensive aid to Gazans.
The United States, which condemned Israel for shelling the school and Hamas for hiding weaponry in schools, confirmed it had resupplied Israel with undisclosed munitions from a U.S. stockpile in Israel. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, did not detail the weaponry. CNN, citing an anonymous U.S. defense official, said the ammunition included tank rounds and illumination rounds.
Israeli attacks in Gaza continued Thursday amid increasing power shortages, water shortages and residents scrambling to fulfill their daily needs.
"I feel bad that I stopped selling desalinated water to people using my truck," said father of three and Gaza resident Gehad Sukker, 45. "But it's dangerous."
Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 15 people were wounded, three critically, when a blast struck a mosque in the northern town of Beit Lahiya.
Meanwhile, Hamas rocket fire continued to reach major Israeli cities, with one hitting a residential building in Kiryat Gat on Thursday. While Israelis said they, too, want the conflict to end they are not optimistic.
"We all know that it is a game of politics," said Gary Sagiv, 49, from Kibbutz Elon in northern Israel. "We are sick and tired of the killings (on both sides) and want this to end. (But that) means no more rockets, no more kidnapping and no more tunnels."
Israel continued to bombard Gaza City on Thursday morning, as its military said 16,000 more reserves had been called up fight, a move that allows it to substantially widen its 23-day campaign against Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip. (July 31) AP
Al-Helou reported from Gaza City, Conway from Tel Aviv and Collins from Berlin. Contributing: Victor Kotsev in Istanbul, Amanda Horowitz in McLean, Va.; Associated Press