Hamas Intensifies Barrage as Israel Agrees to 4-Hour Ceasefire
The Israeli government has agreed to a temporary humanitarian ceasefire starting at 15:00 today (Wednesday).
"The IDF (army) has authorized a temporary window in the Gaza Strip. The window will commence today between 15:00-19:00 (1200 - 1600 GMT)," it said.
But the lull would not apply in areas where ground troops were "currently operating", it said.
The four-hour ceasefire was declared as the Security Cabinet meets at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss whether to expand or end Operation Protective Edge, after 23 days of fighting in Gaza.
It comes as the IDF has stepped up its operations against Islamist terrorists, launching a fresh offensive into more densely-populated regions of northern and central Gaza to root-out rocket-launchers and "terror tunnels" into Israel.
At roughly the same time as the temporary truce was announced terrorists fired a salvo of rockets at communities in southern Israel. The Iron Dome intercepted two rockets over Israeli population centers, while several others struck in open areas.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri officially rejected the ceasefire shortly thereafter, according to Yediot Aharonot, as “meaningless, since it doesn’t include the hot areas on the border of the Gaza Strip,” and that Israel's participation is a "media ploy."
Meanwhile, sources inside Gaza have reported heavy exchanges of fire in Khan Younis, with Hamas suffering an undisclosed but reportedly "heavy" number of casualties in the fighting. Hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters have been killed since the start of the operation.
Four IDF soldiers received treatment under fire, after being lightly wounded in battle.
Soldiers from the Givati infantry brigade together with IDF Engineers destroyed several more "terror tunnels" from Gaza into Israel this morning. IDF forces also located several additional tunnels on Wednesday; in one incident soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade killed two terrorists as they emerged from a tunnel.
In another incident, Givati soldiers and IDF Engineers encountered a cell of 10 terrorists, who opened fire on them with heavy weapons, including an antitank missile. The soldiers engaged with the terrorists, and after identifying the source of fire Israeli Air Force jets carried out a pinpoint strike, eliminating the terror cell.
Two soldiers were lightly wounded in that exchange.
On Wednesday morning the IAF targeted some 40 terror targets in Gaza, including rocket launchpads and command and control centers. Five terrorists were killed in one strike as they attempted to place a bomb targeting IDF forces in southern Gaza.
More to follow.