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Israel considering week-long ceasefire proposed by Kerry

July 25, 2014 5:16 P.M. (Updated: July 25, 2014 9:34 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (AFP) -- International pressure on both sides to cease fire ramped up Friday after the alleged Israeli shelling of a UN facility sheltering displaced Gazans killed at least 15 civilians, drawing widespread international condemnation.

Israel's security cabinet was to meet Friday to discuss a truce proposal passed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli media reported.

It proposes an initial week-long humanitarian ceasefire along with indirect talks between Hamas and Israel in Cairo.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu flew to Qatar on Friday to help efforts after Kerry reached out to Hamas allies Ankara and Doha to push for a ceasefire.

According to Western and Palestinian officials, once a humanitarian lull takes hold, delegations from Israel and Hamas will arrive in Cairo -- which has mediated past conflicts between the two -- for indirect talks that could lead to a lasting deal.

Hamas, however, has insisted that it will only accept a ceasefire that involves an end to an eight-year long blockade that has crippled the Gaza Strip's economy.

7-day humanitarian truce

Kerry has been joined in Cairo by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to push forward the plan, diplomats said.

Ban on Friday urged an immediate "humanitarian pause" in the fighting coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which begins on Monday or Tuesday, depending on the sighting of the new moon.

"On this, the last Friday of Ramadan, I call for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian pause in the fighting in Gaza and Israel. This pause would last through the Eid al-Fitr holiday period," Ban said in a statement released by his office.

Hamas' exiled Doha-based leader Khaled Meshaal, however, insisted in a Thursday interview with the BBC that any truce must include a guaranteed end to Israel's eight-year blockade of Gaza.

"We want a ceasefire as soon as possible, that's parallel with the lifting of the siege of Gaza," he said.

Israel braced meanwhile for West Bank and East Jerusalem unrest after Palestinian factions declared a "Day of Rage" and Israeli police restricted entry to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound to men aged 50 and above.

At least four Palestinians were killed on Friday afternoon, after one Palestinian was killed and 150 were injured in Thursday night clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank, Palestinian medics said.

An AFP correspondent said nearly 1,000 Palestinians were holding a protest in the southern West Bank city Hebron on Friday afternoon, with a similar demonstration taking place in nearby Halhul.

In Gaza, the death toll rose to 838 in 18 days of violence, with a five-year-old child among the latest deaths announced.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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