ISRAEL AND Hamas agreed an unconditional 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire which began this morning, the US and the United Nations said.
It came after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military would dismantle the Hamas tunnel network in the Gaza Strip “with or without a ceasefire”.
Mr Netanyahu had said he would not accept any truce that won’t allow Israel to complete its mission of destroying the sophisticated tunnel network, which has been used to carry out deadly attacks inside Israel.
Israel launched its air campaign on July 8 to stop unrelenting rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel. It expanded the operation with a ground offensive on July 17 with the primary purpose of blocking Hamas infiltration attempts through the tunnels.
The Israeli military has also called up another 16,000 reservists to pursue its campaign in the densely-populated territory. Mr Netanyahu’s vow came as international efforts to end the 23-day-old conflict seemed to falter, despite concern over the mounting death toll, with more than 1,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 50 Israelis, almost all of them soldiers, killed since July 8.
“We have neutralised dozens of terror tunnels and we are committed to complete this mission, with or without a ceasefire,” Mr Netanyahu said.
“Therefore I will not agree to any offer that does not allow the military to complete this important mission for the security of the people of Israel.”
An initial Israeli aerial campaign against Hamas was widened into a ground offensive on July 17.