Kerry: Israel and Hamas Agreed to 72-Hour Ceasefire
Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire in the Gaza conflict, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday night, according to AFP.
Kerry said that the two sides would begin the truce at 8:00 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and that Israelis and Palestinian Arabs would enter talks in Cairo.
"This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence," Kerry said in a hastily arranged mid-morning statement on a visit to New Delhi.
"During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies," he added.
"Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period," said Kerry, who noted he was announcing the truce jointly with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has also invested intense efforts in brokering an end to the bloody conflict.
According to a statement posted on the UN website, “the forces on the ground will remain in place” during the 72-hour ceasefire.
“We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire,” it said.
Kerry, who aides said has held some 100 phone calls on the crisis in the past week despite a trip to India, warned that the ceasefire was not final.
"I want to emphasize -- this is not a time for congratulations and joy, or anything except a serious determination, a focus by everybody to try to figure out the road ahead," he was quoted by AFP as having said.
"This is a respite, a moment of opportunity -- not an end. It's not a solution. It's the opportunity to find a solution," Kerry added.
The statement comes just hours after the State Department said that Kerry had "made some progress" in talks to try to reach a ceasefire in Gaza.
Kerry said earlier on Thursday that he remained hopeful for a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict but declined to predict when.