Israel agreed Wednesday to halt its airstrikes on Gaza for five hours in order to allow humanitarian aid, following a request from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
The military said in a statement Wednesday that it would hold its fire for five hours starting at 10:00 a.m. local time on Thursday.
It warns however that it will retaliate “firmly and decisively” if Hamas or other militant groups launch attacks on Israel during that time.
The cease-fire request came from U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Robert Serry, Haaretz reports.
There was no word on whether there would be a similar lull from Palestinian militants, who fired at least 90 rockets at Israel on Wednesday and vowed not to stop until their demands were met.
After news of the cease-fire broke, Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system continued to intercept rockets heading toward Israel, the newspaper added.
Earlier in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the international community to condemn the militant group Hamas for committing a “double war crime” of firing barrages of rockets at Israelis while using Palestinians as human shields.
Netanyahu, speaking at a news conference, said “Israel will continue to do what it needs to do to defend itself until peace and quiet are restored,” according to the Jerusalem Post.
He added that the demilitarization of Gaza is “most important step for the international community to insist on.”
The comments came as a senior Hamas official said the militant group has formally closed the door on the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire aimed at ending the conflict with Israel.
Sami Abu Zuhri said Wednesday in a text message to The Associated Press that the group “informed Cairo today officially that we don’t accept the proposal they made.”
Israel had held out hope that the cease-fire deal plan could be salvaged. But Abu Zuhri says it has been definitively rejected.
Both sides once again exchanged a flurry of rockets Wednesday.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said it had struck 50 Hamas targets in Beit Lahiya — a town of approximately 70,000 people in northern Gaza — the Zeitoun and Shijaiyah neighborhoods of Gaza City and other parts of northern Gaza.
The website of the Gaza Interior Ministry said Israeli warplanes hit 30 houses, including those of senior Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar, Jamila Shanti, Fathi Hamas and Ismail Ashkar.
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