Israel agrees to humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza

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Jerusalem, July 20: Israel has agreed to a two-hour humanitarian ceasefire proposed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to evacuate casualties in Gaza city, the Israeli army said on Sunday.

Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, Israel's coordinator of government activities in the Palestinian territories, said in a statement that the army will cease its fire from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. but warned that "any fire during this time will be retaliated".

The ICRC proposed a three-hour humanitarian ceasefire window early Sunday to Hamas and Israel to evacuate the dead and wounded in the Sheja'eya neighbourhood in eastern Gaza city. Hamas has also accepted the proposal.

At least 40 Palestinians were killed and 400 others wounded early Sunday by Israeli artillery fire in the Gaza city, making it the heaviest casualties since Israel launched its ground operation late Thursday night.

An Israeli spokesperson said residents in Sheja'eya had received warning messages from the Israeli army to evacuate their homes.

Palestinian health ministry officials said at least 390 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed in the 13-day conflict and about 3,000 have been wounded. On Israel's side, two civilians were killed in cross-border firing and five soldiers died as the conflict intensified.

The Islamic movement Hamas which controls Gaza Strip had earlier claimed that Israel had rejected the ceasefire proposal.

IANS

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