Israel, Hamas agree to new short-term ceasefire

Smoke from fires caused by Israeli strikes rises over Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke from fires caused by Israeli strikes rises over Gaza City, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) ASSOCIATED PRESS

Israel and Hamas agreed Sunday on a new 72-hour ceasefire to halt hostilities in the Gaza Strip while Egyptian-mediated talks proceed on a long-term truce.

A senior Israeli official said Israel agreed to hold fire from midnight Sunday and would send a delegation for talks in Cairo on Monday if rocket attacks were stopped. The official spoke anonymously under Israeli briefing rules.

Egyptian state television reported earlier that a delegation of Palestinian factions in Cairo, which includes representatives of Hamas, had agreed to the three-day ceasefire.

Fighting between Israel and Hamas resumed Friday after the Islamist group refused to extend a previous 72-hour ceasefire unless Israel agreed in principle to its demands. They include lifting a blockade on the Gaza Strip, permitting the opening of a seaport there and releasing former prisoners rearrested by Israel in the West Bank.

There was no indication whether Israel had agreed to any of those terms before the two sides agreed to another ceasefire.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier on Sunday that Israel “will not negotiate under fire.”

Under an Egyptian ceasefire plan, both sides are to hold fire while they negotiate a durable truce to end more than a month of fighting that has left more than 1,900 Palestinians dead, most of them civilians killed in Israeli bombardments and shelling, according to the United Nations. The Israeli army says it lost 64 soldiers, and three civilians were killed by rocket strikes in Israel.

Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Sunday killed three people, including a teenage boy, according to local reports. Militants in Gaza fired rockets at southern Israel, but no injuries were reported.

In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot and killed an 11-year-old boy in the Fawwar refugee camp near the city of Hebron. Palestinians said the boy was outside his house when he was hit by a live round fired by troops during a confrontation with protestors.

An army statement said that soldiers who entered the camp for an unspecified “activity” were confronted by a “violent riot” and “opened fire” toward “main instigators.”

“Unfortunately a Palestinian boy was killed by the fire,” the statement said, adding that “the circumstances are being reviewed.” An army spokeswoman said that a military police investigation would be launched into the killing.

Under Israeli army rules, soldiers may only open fire with live ammunition when their lives are at risk, and should use non-lethal riot control weapons to disperse protesters.

More than a dozen Palestinians have been killed by army gunfire in the West Bank in violent street protests against the Israeli campaign in Gaza. The Israeli human rights group B’tselem has accused the army of using excessive force in confronting the protesters, resorting repeatedly to live ammunition in cases when soldiers were not in mortal danger.

Greenberg is a McClatchy special correspondent.