A new 72-hour ceasefire has held into Monday morning in the Gaza Strip, raising hopes for a fresh respite in a bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas that has devastated the Palestinian enclave.
The truce was agreed after Egypt said it had received “simultaneous consensus” from both sides for the truce which began at 21:00 GMT on Sunday.
Israeli officials are said to have agreed to the deal for a new ceasefire negotiated by Palestinians in Cairo after mediation by Egypt.
Israel will send negotiators to the Egyptian capital on Monday if the truce holds.
Egypt called on both sides to use the lull to “reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire”.
A previous 72-hour ceasefire brokered by Cairo ended on Friday morning, with the conflict resuming between Israel and Hamas, who run the Gaza Strip.
Israel withdrew from truce negotiations in Cairo on Friday, soon after the previous ceasefire ended in a firestorm of violence.
As of Sunday afternoon, the death toll in Gaza had reached 1,939. According to the UN, about 73 percent of the people killed were civilians.
A total of 64 Israeli soldiers were also killed as well as three civilians on the Israeli side.
Ending of the blockade
Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from West Jerusalem, said that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, had come under intense pressure internationally and domestically.
“Internally, people are frustrated especially those who live in the south who had evacuated their homes along the border with Gaza for a month and then were told to return home during the ceasefire only to find out fighting has resumed,” she said.
“He [Netanyahu] is also under pressure from the international community to return to Cairo for talks.”
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said that if talks to secure a permanent ceasefire led nowhere, going back into Gaza would be the only option.
“The moment the door closes and negotiations do not bear any fruit and we are faced with continued fire … there will apparently be no choice, and then we will go in,” he told public radio.
Meanwhile, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal told AFP news agency on Sunday that a lasting truce must lead to the lifting of Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Meshaal said the latest ceasefire deal “is one of the ways or tactics to ensure successful negotiations or to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza”.
The final “goal we insist on is having the demands of Palestinians met and the Gaza Strip exist without a blockade”.