Israel, Hamas agree Gaza humanitarian aid truce

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories- Israel and Hamas have agreed to a UN request to briefly halt hostilities Thursday on humanitarian grounds, after an Israeli strike killed four Palestinian children on a beach, while efforts intensify to secure a formal truce.

The sides announced the temporary lull in fighting after a punishing Israeli offensive aimed at halting rocket fire by Gaza militants had resumed when previous Egypt-brokered truce efforts collapsed Tuesday.

Ahead of the five-hour pause, due to begin at 0700 GMT, hostilities continued early Thursday with Israel’s air strikes, on the 10th day of its campaign, taking the toll to 227 killed and 1,678 wounded, Gaza medical services said.

A Gaza-based human rights group says more than 80 percent of them were civilians.

Since July 8, militants have fired more than 1,200 rockets at Israel. They claimed their first Israeli life on Tuesday.

The army said early on Thursday that Israel had conducted 37 raids overnight on Gaza, while seven rockets were fired from Gaza, four of which landed in fields and the rest were intercepted by Israel’s missile defenses.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, had rejected initial Egyptian efforts for a full ceasefire, saying it had not been included in the discussions.