Hamas agrees to 24-hour holiday truce in Gaza war

Hamas says it has agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce in the Gaza war ahead of a major Muslim holiday.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the truce would go into effect at 2 p.m. local time Sunday.

Israel had resumed its ground offensive in the Gaza Strip Sunday after Palestinian militants continued to launch rockets, ending an earlier unilateral cease-fire, as the conflict entered its 20th day.

Israel said rockets were fired into its southern region Sunday. Two were downed by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system and five fell in open areas. Shortly thereafter, the Israeli military said aerial, naval and ground strikes on Gaza were restarting.

Previously, Israel had accepted and Hamas rejected a 24-hour extension of a humanitarian cease-fire meant to remain into effect until midnight Sunday.

The latest truce comes ahead of the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, which caps the month of Ramadan. The holiday is expected to begin Monday or Tuesday, depending on the sighting of the new moon. Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner didn’t say if Israel would hold fire. He said troops would continue demolishing Hamas military tunnels.

Since the conflict began July 8, More than 1,000 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed. Another 6,000 have been wounded. In Israel, 43 have died, including 40 soldiers, two civilians and a Thai worker.

Israeli soldier Barak Refael Degorker, 27, died in fighting Saturday “in the vicinity” of the strip.

.

Bodies of at least 130 Palestinians were recovered Saturday, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said, as people used the cease-fire to move medical supplies and tend to the dead and injured in the Gaza Strip.

As the initial lull in hostilities began at 8 a.m. Saturday, Gazans poured onto the streets to find food supplies, look for missing family members or return to homes they left for shelters. The nearly three weeks of fighting has left swaths of rubble, destroyed roads and damaged power infrastructure in residential neighborhoods across the strip.

“With my brothers and neighbors, we volunteer and go help others, in case their homes were targeted,” Imad Nasrallah, 38, said.

“We transfer the wounded to hospitals or go carry the martyrs and bury them.”

Saturday’s temporary truce was the second and the longest since the conflict began on July 8. A humanitarian cease-fire on July 17 was quickly overlooked as rocket fire resumed as soon as the set five hours expired.

In Paris on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with European foreign ministers to find ways to build off Saturday’s lull.

On Friday, Israel rejected a U.S.-backed proposal for a weeklong truce because it would require its forces to interrupt its operation to destroy Hamas tunnels. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told troops Friday that Israel may significantly widen the Gaza ground operation.

A truce proposed by Egypt last week was rejected by Hamas because the group said it wasn’t consulted. Hamas says any peace deal must include the lifting of a blockade against Gaza.

In the northern town of Beit Hanoun, residents — many of whom had fled days earlier — encountered widespread destruction Saturday.

“Nothing is left. Everything I have is gone,” said Siham Kafarneh, 37, weeping as she talked about the destroyed home she had spent 10 years saving up for and moved into just two months ago.

The continued hostilities have meant nowhere is safe for Nasrallah and his family as shelters no longer offer the promise of security, he said.

“It’s not safe to go out but there is no guarantee our homes are safe,” said Nasrallah. “Many houses were hit by Israeli tank shelling and airstrikes while people were inside.”