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12-hour ceasefire to begin at 7 a.m. as Gaza death toll hits 867

July 25, 2014 11:23 P.M. (Updated: July 26, 2014 4:41 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas and Israel announced late Friday a 12-hour ceasefire to take place beginning Saturday morning, as the day's death toll in the Israeli assault on Gaza topped 67 amid an intense sunset barrage that killed at least 14.

"Israel has agreed to a 12-hour ceasefire from 7:00 a.m. Saturday," said the US official traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry, who was leaving Cairo without securing a longer ceasefire deal between Israel and Palestinian movement Hamas.

The announcement came immediately after the Israeli cabinet rejected another proposal by Kerry which would have involved a ceasefire followed by negotiations.

For his part, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Hamas and all other militant factions in the Gaza Strip had also agreed to the humanitarian ceasefire.

Netanyahu's government previously said it wanted a ceasefire that would allow its troops to remain inside Gaza in order to destroy tunnels, which it insists that Palestinian militant groups to strike Israeli soldiers across the border. Although they have used these tactics since Israel invaded last week, groups have rarely used it previously.

Hamas, meanwhile, has previously insisted that it would only accept a ceasefire that included a lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which prevents imports, exports, and the movement of people and has crippled the coastal territory's economy.

The announcement of the unilateral ceasefire came amid continued carnage in Gaza on Friday, where the death toll surpassed 865 with more than 5,730 injured in 18 days of Israeli assault.

35 Israeli soldiers have been killed by Palestinian militants in the same time, along with three civilians.

Clashes also broke out across the West Bank on Friday, in a "Day of Rage" against Israel that brought thousands into the streets in all major towns and villages.

Israeli forces killed at least six Palestinians while dispersing protesters, bringing the three-day death toll in West Bank solidarity protests to nine.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the area, which increased sharply after Israel launched massive assault across the West Bank that it said was an attempt to "crush" Hamas.

That operation -- which began in June and ended in early July -- left nearly a dozen Palestinians dead, more than one hundred injured, and a thousand more in Israeli jails.

The Gaza Strip has been under Israeli siege since 2006 since Hamas was democratically elected into power by the Palestinian people, and has been subject to frequent bombardments.

A 2008-9 assault killed 1,400, while a 2012 killed nearly 200. The vast majority in both cases were civilians, and Gaza-based rights groups estimate around 80 percent of present casualties are non-combatants as well.

Bombardment launched during Iftar

Israeli strikes on Palestinian medical targets on Friday afternoon left at least one dead, including a medic.

Hamid al-Barai was killed in an airstrike on an ambulance he was working in in Beit Hanoun.

Meanwhile, activist group International Solidarity Movement said that the Beit Hanoun Hospital was under heavy Israeli shelling in the evening.

The group said in a statement that 61 staff, three patients, and two of the group's volunteers were trapped inside, as most patients had been evacuated to al-Shifa Hospital due to previous shelling.

"It's now chaos, the military is shelling directly at us. There are two patients on the second floor and we think they're okay, but we can't move them easily as they're bed-bound. I'm bleeding from a head wound and there's another person injured. People are very frightened." Stated Fred Ekblad, a Swedish activist, was quoted as saying.

On Thursday night, Israeli shelling destroyed al-Durrah Children's Hospital in Gaza City, killing a two-year-old child and injuring at least 30 others.

At least three Gaza hospitals have sustained major damage from Israeli shelling in recent days, with medical rights group Doctors Without Borders blasting Israel for targeting medical facilities and equipment.

A dozen were killed in intense Israeli bombardment from air, land and sea that commenced immediately following the evening call to prayer signaled the break of Ramadan fasting for Gazan Muslims.

Palestinian Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said that medical sources in al-Shifa hospital said Abd al-Majid al-Aidy, 35, and Mohammad Abd al-Naser Abu Zeina, 24, were killed in a strike on their house in al-Zaytoun refugee camp.

An Israeli airstrike killed a Yousra Salem Hassan al-Berim, 65, from Bani Suheila after hitting her home.

DFLP military member Yusif Kamil al-Wasifi, 26, was also killed.

An unidentified man was killed in a strike on Abu Laila family home in the al-Zaytoun neighborhood in the southern Gaza strip.

Three people were killed in two airstrikes on a a motorbike and a group of people in Rafah.

Two Palestinians were killed in shelling on a homes in al-Masdar village central Gaza Strip.

Mustafa al-Astal, 38, was killed in a strike on al-Satir al-Gharbi in Khan Younis.

AFP contributed to this report.
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