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Israel, Hamas Agree to 72-Hour Cease-Fire to Begin Friday

ASHDOD, ISRAEL - JULY 08: An Iron Dome missile flies to intercept a rocket on July 8, 2014, in Ashdod, Israel. Due to recent escalation in the region, the Israeli army has started new deployments at the border with the Gaza Strip. In the past 3 weeks more than 130 rockets where reportedly fired from Gaza into Israel. Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images

Israel and Hamas have agreed to an unconditional 72-hour cease-fire set to commence at 8 a.m. Friday, the U.N. and U.S. announced Thursday afternoon.

The State Department said in a statement that delegates from both Israel and Palestine will immediately travel to Cairo for negotiations aimed at reaching a lasting deal.

Deputy spokesperson for the State Department Marie Harf added on Twitter that the cease-fire is "critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence."

The announcement came after the 24th day of Israel's "Operation Protective Edge" campaign in the Gaza Strip, which saw the Palestinian death count rise to 1,432, or 15 more than the 1,417 Palestinians reportedly killed during the Operation Cast Lead offensive in Gaza in 2008-2009, according to the the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

In addition, Israel suffered 11 casualties from Hamas mortar attacks on border towns Eshkol and Kiryat Gat, according to local news outlets. 73 rockets struck Israel on Thursday, according to the IDF, while 17 were intercepted by the country's missile defense system, Iron Dome.

Earlier on Thursday White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest directed sharp words at Israel regarding Wednesday's shelling of a United Nation's facility which apparently housed a number of Palestinian civilians seeking refuge from the fighting.

“The Israeli military can and should do more to protect the lives of those innocent civilians,” Earnest said.

“The shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilian who are fleeting violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible," he added. "It is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to to the high standards that they have set for themselves.”

Despite those comments, earlier in the day Israeli officials showed no indication they were ready to abandon their goal of completely dismantling Hamas’s sophisticated network of tunnels designed to facilitate attacks on Israeli soldiers and citizens.

"We have destroyed dozens of tunnels and we will finish the rest with or without a cease-fire," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said  ahead of  a security cabinet meeting, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Instagram photo posted  from Kiryat Gat by user 'yarinnahmni' apparently depicting damage from a Hamas rocket attack.

An Israeli Defense official noted it could take at least a few more days to finish the job, according to  a BBC News producer.

"We've neutralized 70-80% of Hamas offensive tunnels," the official said, according to the BBC producer. "It will take a few days to complete the task."."

Photo posted from the Gaza Strip by Instagram user 'grannytomyfriends' allegedly depicting damage caused by Operation Protective Edge.

TheBlaze's Oliver Darcy contributed to this report.

Follow Josiah Ryan (@JosiahRyan) on Twitter

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