Israel and Hamas began a five-hour humanitarian cease-fire today, a momentary reprieve during a 10-day conflict that has left 227 dead.
The sides are slated to participate in a five-hour cease-fire from 10 a.m. local time Thursday (3 a.m. EST) until 3 p.m. (8 a.m. EST), with the break in attacks scheduled to allow humanitarian aid.
“This humanitarian window is meant to allow the civilian population of the Gaza Strip to engage in resupply for their humanitarian needs,” a statement from the Israel Defense Forces stated.
“Should the humanitarian window be exploited by Hamas or other terror organizations for the purpose of launching attacks against Israeli civilian or military targets the IDF will respond firmly and decisively,” the statement said.
Earlier today, the Israeli military says it thwarted an attack by 13 Gaza militants who sneaked into Israel through a tunnel.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, says the militants were identified some 820 feet inside Israel and were struck by Israeli aircraft. Lerner said the military believed at least one militant was killed in Thursday’s strike. He says the remaining fighters appeared to have returned to Gaza through the tunnel.
This was the second time militants infiltrated Israel from Gaza. Last week Israel killed four militants who entered from the sea.
The willingness of Israel to halt its attack came after four Palestinian boys playing on a Gaza beach were killed by Israeli fire. Israel, which has contended that Hamas hides its rocket launchers and arsenals in populated areas, said it would look into the circumstances of the boys’ deaths.
President Obama said Wednesday that “we’ve all been heart broken by the violence” that has “men, women and children caught in the crossfire.”
The president said the U.S. “will use all of our diplomatic relationships to support closing a deal on a ceasefire.”
There was no indication that Israel or Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, were willing to agree to a permanent ceasefire that had been proposed by Egypt earlier this week. Israel had halted its attacks for several hours earlier this week, but resumed its military campaign after Hamas fired dozens of rockets at Israel.
All but one of the people killed in the conflict are Palestinians, many of them civilians and children, according to Gaza health officials. At least 1,685 people have been injured in Gaza since fighting broke out last week, the health officials said.
The battle has broken a two-year lull in hostilities between Israel and Hamas and was triggered by the slaying of three Israeli teens and revenge burning death of a Palestinian teen. Angry protests escalated to rocket launches and retaliatory air strikes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.