• Over 140 bodies pulled from rubble
  • UN renews appeal for political talks

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Hamas on Sunday belatedly said it has agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce, shortly after Israel announced a resumption of hostilities in Gaza following a day-long pause.
"In response to the UN's intervention request to monitor the situation... it has been agreed between the resistance factions that a 24-hour humanitarian truce will start from 2:00 pm (1100 GMT)," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.
Zuhri said the ceasefire would take place ahead of the three-day Muslim holiday of Eidul Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramazan and is expected to fall on Monday.
There was no immediate reaction from Israel, and strikes continued to hit Gaza, including inside Gaza City.
Hamas earlier rejected Israel's decision to extend by 24 hours a pause in hostilities in Gaza, saying Israeli tanks first had to withdraw from the territory.
"No humanitarian ceasefire is valid without Israeli tanks withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and without residents being able to return to their homes and ambulances carrying bodies being able to freely move around in Gaza," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday the militant Palestinian group Hamas had violated its own offer of a 24-hour humanitarian truce in Gaza.
Asked whether Israel would accept the truce offer, Netanyahu told CNN: "Hamas doesn't even accept its own ceasefire, it's continuing to fire at us as we speak."
Netanyahu added that Israel "will take whatever action is necessary to protect our people."
Two Israeli soldiers, who were wounded in and near the Gaza Strip earlier this week, died Saturday, bringing to 42 the number of Israeli soldiers killed since the start of military operations in the Palestinian territory, the army said.
Infantry Captain Liad Lavi, 22, was wounded on Thursday south of the Gaza Strip while infantry Sergeant Rami Chalon, 39, was hurt two days earlier at the border with the enclave, the army said in a statement.
The bodies of at least 147 Palestinians were recovered from the rubble across the Gaza Strip during a 12-hour humanitarian truce on Saturday, medics said.
Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said the bodies had been brought to hospitals in north, central and southern Gaza, as well as Gaza City.
The grim discoveries raised the toll in Gaza on the 19th day of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group to more than 1,000, Qudra said.
In northern Gaza, particularly the area of Beit Hanun, medics recovered at least 32 bodies, Qudra said early on Saturday, along with at least 13 people in the central areas of Bureij, Deir al-Balah and Nusseirat.
Gaza City's Shifa hospital received 29 bodies from the eastern neighbourhoods of Shejaiya, Zaitun and Tuffah, and 11 others were taken to hospitals from the southern areas of Khan Yunis and Rafah, Qudra added.
He later announced more dead from all over the Strip identified in hospitals in the north and south.
Earlier, Israel extended a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip for another 24 hours, but Hamas, which dominates the coastal enclave, said it would only accept the truce if Israeli troops left the territory.
Israeli ministers had signaled that a comprehensive deal to end the 20-day conflict with Hamas and its allies, in which at least 1,050 Gazans - mostly civilians - have been killed, and 42 soldiers and three civilians in Israel have died, was remote.
"At the request of the United Nations, the cabinet has approved a humanitarian hiatus until tomorrow at 2400 (midnight local time, 2100 GMT Sunday)," the official, who was not named, said in a statement after the cabinet session held in Tel Aviv had ended. "The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) will act against any breach of the ceasefire."
On Saturday, Gazans took advantage of the lull in fighting to recover their dead and stock up on food supplies, flooding into the streets after the ceasefire began at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) to discover scenes of massive destruction in some areas.
The positions of both Israel and Hamas regarding a long-lasting halt to hostilities have remained far apart.
Hamas wants an end to an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza before agreeing to halt hostilities. Israeli officials said any ceasefire must allow the military to carry on hunting down the Hamas tunnel network that crisscrosses the Gaza border.
Welcoming the broadly observed 12-hour humanitarian pause in the Gaza conflict, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Sunday renewed his appeal to all parties to declare a week-long ceasefire as a prelude to restarting political negotiations.
A statement by the secretary-general's spokesperson noted that there were countless images of Gazans trying to return to their daily lives while taking care of their wounded and attending to their dead during the pause, which ended on Saturday.
"These images make it clear that we owe to the people of both Israel and Gaza our renewed effort to consolidate this pause in fighting into a more sustainable ceasefire," said the statement.
"The Secretary-General therefore urgently appeals once again to all parties to declare a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza as a prelude to renewing a political process as the only way of achieving a durable peace," it said, adding that he strongly urged the parties, at the very minimum, to extend the humanitarian pause.
On Friday, Ban wrapped up a six-day mission to the region by stressing that it is time for the parties to stop fighting and start talking. "There is no military solution to addressing the grievances and all parties must find a way to dialogue," he told the reporters in Cairo.
He added that the ongoing fighting emphasizes the need to finally end the 47-year-old occupation and the "chokehold" on Gaza, ensure security based on mutual recognition, and achieve a viable two-State solution by which Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security, side by side.
In Saturday's statement, Ban reiterated that any peace effort that does not tackle the root causes of the crisis will do little more than "set the stage for the next cycle of violence."
According to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the latest Israeli military offensive in Gaza, which is home to 1.8 million people, has left hundreds dead and thousands injured. Over 170,000 people have sought shelter in UNRWA schools, "facing uncertainty, anguish and risks to their lives," the Agency said in a news release.
"The situation in Gaza has been extreme for so many years, to the point of becoming completely unsustainable," said UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl."This conflict has been a terrible added blow. It is taking a staggering toll on Gaza's civilians, and will leave a lasting mark for years to come, particularly on children."
Krahenbuhl was in Amman today where he met with Queen Rania Al Abdullah to discuss the crisis and express the Agency's gratitude for Jordan's continued support in facilitating the flow of humanitarian supplies through the Kingdom.
Queen Rania noted that Gaza was suffering the third round of conflict in less than six years, and stressed the need for the donor community to provide urgently-needed funds so that UNRWA can continue its life-saving assistance.
"Gaza is a protracted humanitarian disaster; its people have been trapped in a vicious cycle of bloodshed and blockade for too long. Failure to meet the desperate needs of Gaza's innocent civilians today would be a fundamental failure in our humanity," the Queen said. - Agencies

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