Story updated at 6:00 a.m., August 1
The United States and the United Nations announced on Thursday that Israel and Hamas had agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire, starting Friday morning and lasting through the weekend. However, less than five hours after the scheduled start time, Israel officially declared the truce over and announced they are resuming their offensive in Gaza.
In practice, the ceasefire never really began. Less than two hours after the 8:00 a.m. (1:00 a.m. ET) start time, the IDF reported rocket fire from Gaza into neighboring towns, while Palestinian officials reported Israeli artillery fire in the southern part of the Strip. At least 25 residents of Gaza were killed, as were five Israeli soldiers, in the early morning hours, and the truce was called off before it ever had a chance to kick in.
In addition, peace talks that had been planned in Cairo for this weekend appear to off. The diplomats will have to go back to the drawing board.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro released a statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry via Facebook.
We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire.
This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. 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."
Meanwhile Israel and Hamas are sending representatives to Cairo to meet with Egyptian leaders in hopes of forging a longer term solution, the AP is reporting. The temporary stop to the 23-day conflict will start at 8:00 a.m. local time on Friday.
The announcement comes after White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest offered the Obama administration's harshest criticism yet of Israel, in response to reports that the IDF was responsible for a Wednesday attack on a U.N. school in Gaza.
“The shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible,” Earnest said Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that he would not accept any ceasefire deal that didn't allow Israel to complete its stated mission of destroying the remainder of Hamas's underground tunnels, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The tunnels are used by Hamas to cross into Israel without detection in part to bypass the five-year Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, which restricts imports into Gaza. However, the Netanyahu's government maintains that they are a threat to Israel and they must retain the right to continue to search for and destroy them.
In June 2006, Hamas used the tunnels to kidnap Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier who was returned to Israel five years later, in exchange for almost 1,100 Palestinian prisoners. The Wall Street Journal reported the Israeli military has uncovered 32 of the tunnels.