Hamas has agreed to a 24-hour cease-fire, a spokesman for the group said Sunday, but just fifteen minutes into the proposed peaceful time period, rockets were launched at Israel.
Israel earlier had said it would abide by a 24-hour humanitarian truce requested by the United Nations starting Saturday night, but when rockets continued to be fired at the Jewish State, the IDF renewed its offensive on the terrorist group’s rocket launchers and underground tunnels.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri offered the truce to begin at 2 p.m. (7 a.m. EDT) Sunday, while rockets were fired at 2:15 p.m. It is unclear if Hamas or another Palestinian militant group gave the go-ahead for that barrage.
The timing was likely designed to coincide with the three-day Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday which depending on the new moon could begin either Monday or Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz obtained an exclusive first public look on Sunday at Secretary of State John Kerry’s draft cease-fire proposal, which appeared to confirm that many of Hamas’ demands were addressed, at the expense of Israel’s.
“The cease-fire draft U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented to Israel on Friday evening contained practically no mention of Israel’s security needs or of demilitarizing the Gaza Strip of rockets,” Haaretz reported. “The draft also forbade Israel from demolishing terror tunnels running from Gaza into Israeli territory during the seven day ‘humanitarian cease-fire’ that were meant to end the fighting, according to a draft of the document obtained by Haaretz, revealed here for the first time.”
Hamas has set preconditions before agreeing to short-term lulls in the fighting, including lifting of the Israeli and Egyptian blockades on Gaza and releasing Palestinian prisoners, the AP reported.
Quoting U.N. and Israeli sources, the Times of Israel reported that Hamas had asked for Sunday’s 24-hour cease-fire through the U.N., but Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman, said the U.N. had made the request.
After holding its fire since Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet gave the go ahead to renew the military campaign following a barrage of rockets fired at southern and central Israel.
“Yet again Hamas is cynically exploiting the residents of Gaza in order to use them as human shields. Hamas first rejected the Egyptian cease-fire initiative and afterwards violated last week’s UN humanitarian truce. It later violated the Red Cross humanitarian truce and has rebuffed the UN request for a humanitarian truce in order to allow the residents of Gaza to prepare for Eid al-Fitr,” an Israeli government statement read according to the Jerusalem Post.
The IDF did not say, as of this writing, if it would accede to the Hamas temporary truce. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman, told the AP that even if they were to hold their fire, Israeli forces would continue dismantling tunnels Hamas has used over the past week to sneak into Israel and kill six Israeli soldiers.
“Yesterday I called on all parties to extend the humanitarian pause for another 24 hours,” U.N. Middle East peace process coordinator Robert Serry told Israel’s Channel 2. “Israel agreed. Despite initial disruption from resumed rocket fire, Hamas and other Palestinian factions have now announced they are willing to pause for 24 hours…”
Serry warned Gaza residents to be cautious even in the event of a cease-fire and “not to go into the street or back to their houses before this new cease-fire is actually effective on the ground.”
Kerry returned to Washington after a failed effort at forging a more long-term cease-fire agreement.
Israeli government officials are fuming at Kerry for presenting what they viewed as a one-sided cease-fire proposal favoring Hamas and for meeting this weekend in Paris with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey – who are viewed as Hamas advocates – leaving Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian Authority officials out of the gathering.