Sheikh Parvez is working to call on President Obama and Congress to push for a ceasefire

Sheikh Parvez

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Israel and Hamas agree to 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire
US and UN announce that both parties have agreed to an unconditional ceasefire to start Friday morning
Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour pause in their three-week conflict, the United States and the United Nations announced, allowing for both sides to begin talks on a longer-term ceasefire.
The truce will begin at 8am on Friday, local time, after which delegations from Israel and Palestine will convene in Cairo for negotiations to be mediated by the Egyptian government.
In a joint statement, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and US secretary of state John Kerry said the ceasefire would give “innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence”. The pause would allow Gaza’s civilians to “bury the dead, care for the injured, and restock food supplies”, they said. Repairs would also be made to water and power infrastructure damaged in the 24 days of conflict, which has killed 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians.
However, “forces on the ground will remain in place”, meaning Israel had succeeded in its insistence that its troops continue to search for and destroy Hamas tunnels during any humanitarian pause.
“We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire,” the two top diplomats said.
“This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence,” the statement continued. “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. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.”
Ban and Kerry, who have been at the forefront of efforts to seek an end to the conflict, said the UN’s representative in Jerusalem, special coordinator Robert Serry, had received “assurances that all parties have agreed to an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza”.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group would abide by the ceasefire, Reuters reported. “Acknowledging a call by the United Nations and in consideration of the situation of our people, resistance factions agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian and mutual calm that begins at 8am on Friday as long as the other side abides by it,” he said. “All the Palestinian factions are united behind the issue in this regard.”
More than an hour after the truce was announced, there was no formal response from Israel, however a US official said the ceasefire would not have been released without firm assurances from both sides that there would be a pause in violence. “We believe Israel to be committed,” another western diplomat told the Guardian.
The US-UN statement added: “Israeli and Palestinian delegations will immediately be going to Cairo for negotiations with thegovernment of Egypt, at the invitation of Egypt, aimed at reaching a durable ceasefire. The parties will be able to raise all issues of concern in these negotiations.”
The ceasefire was first announced in New Delhi, where Kerry is currently on a diplomatic visit. It followed mounting international outrage over the shelling earlier this week by Israeli forces of a UN school sheltering thousands of Palestinian families who had fled their homes after being warned by Israel to evacuate ahead of bombing. At least 15 people, including sleeping children, were killed and hundreds injured.
Ban condemned the attack as “outrageous and unjustifiable” and President Barack Obama’s press secretary , delivering an unusually forthright response, called the attack “totally unacceptable” and “totally indefensible”.
Previous unilateral ceasefires have been short-lived, with each side blaming the other for violations. This is the first time that both parties have agreed to a pause during which further negotiations will begin.
The Egyptian government made a similar proposal more than two weeks ago, which Israel agreed to, but Hamas rejected.
The composition of the delegations to attend talks in Cairo was still being worked on into the night. Diplomatic sources indicated that the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, would help decide the team representing the the Palestinian side, but was not expected to attend the negotiations.
Egypt was expected to take a central role in facilitating the talks, which will begin as soon as the parties arrive in Cairo and could, if the ceasefire is extended, last several days.
The US was also sending a small delegation, including Bill Burns, deputy secretary of state, and Frank Lowenstein, Kerry’s special envoy for Middle East.
There were no immediate plans for Kerry, who whose recent attempt to forge a ceasefire collapsed amid acrimony last weekend, to attend the talks, although a western diplomat said his attendance remained “a possibility”.
“This is a lull of opportunity,” Kerry told reporters in New Delhi, according to Reuters. “It is imperative people make the best effort to try to find common ground.”:::::::::

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