Israel approves extension of cease-fire in Gaza; Hamas considers options

Gaza (CNN) -- Israel late Saturday authorized an extension of the humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza for another 24 hours at the request of the United Nations, Israeli officials told CNN.

Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan told CNN that the group was still undecided on whether to agree to the truce.

"What was declared was a positive sign but we're still waiting for clarification from mediators," he said of the latest proposal.

The developments came as a tenuous cease-fire both parties agreed to earlier appeared to be shattered, with militant rockets again hurtling toward Israel as diplomats pushed for a longer truce in a conflict that has killed more than 1,000 people -- mostly civilians.

The Israeli Security Cabinet late Saturday agreed to extend the cease-fire, starting at 5 p.m. ET, on the condition that Israel Defense Forces continues dismantling and destroying militant tunnels from Gaza into Israel, according to senior Israeli officials.

The officials said IDF would "act against any violations of the cease-fire" during this period. The Cabinet was to reconvene Sunday to discuss the continuation of the military operation, the officials said.

Israel had earlier agreed to extend the truce for four hours, but Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri said there would be no extension.

The original cease-fire started at 8 a.m. Saturday (1 a.m. ET). The temporary truce enabled Palestinians to move medical supplies into Gaza, families to emerge from shelters and people to dig the dead from piles of rubble.

The prospect of an extension faded quickly as the Israel Defense Forces accused militants of exploiting the humanitarian window by firing at Israel for the second time, with three rockets hitting the Sha'ar HaNegev regional council.

Earlier Saturday, moments after the cease-fire officially ended, another three mortars were fired from Gaza and hit Israel in the Eshkol regional council. No casualties or damage were reported.

At about 4 p.m. ET, IDF said four rockets had been fired in the last hour: two were intercepted above Ashkelon, one was intercepted above the Shfela region and another came down in the Hof Ashkelon regional council.

The IDF said many Gaza residents were returning to previously evacuated areas despite repeated warnings, placing themselves at risk. It said operations against the tunnel threat continued and defensive positions were being maintained.

Israeli government officials told CNN that the United Nations has asked for a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire extension. As a first stage, the Cabinet approved four additional hours until midnight, giving the Israeli Cabinet time to convene and discuss the request.

"We owe to the people of both Israel and Gaza our renewed effort to consolidate this pause in fighting into a more sustainable ceasefire," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in statement, reiterating his call for seven-day humanitarian cease-fire.

Palestinians found more than 100 bodies in areas that have been too dangerous to enter in recent days because of Israeli bombardment, Dr. Ashraf al-Qedra from the Gaza Ministry of Health told CNN.

More than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 5,840 wounded since the start of an Israeli operation, al-Qedra said.

The IDF reported that two Israeli soldiers wounded in Gaza in the past week died on Saturday, bringing to 42 the number of Israeli troops killed in the current operation.

The possibility of a longer truce seems to have passed, according to comments from the Hamas camp.

"There won't been any talks about extending the cease-fire as long as there aren't talks about breaking the siege," said Israa Al-Mudalal of the Gaza Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

She accused Israel of "escalating the situation" in the so-called buffer zone and of not letting medical workers remove bodies in certain areas.

"We can't stop the firing (of rockets) until we have a real solution to this problem," she said. "There will be no peace as long as the siege continues."

Two senior Hamas officials, Izzat Risheq and Jamal Nazal, told CNN that the truce negotiations were tense and difficult.

Cabinet minister Yaacov Peri told Israel's Channel 10, "I wasn't asked yet for my opinion, but if I am asked, I will say yes to extending the cease-fire by a few hours."

In Paris on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomats pushed for an extended truce. He met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

The passions of the conflict, meanwhile, echoed across the world.

About 40 protesters were arrested in Paris on Saturday when a banned pro-Palestinian demonstration turned violent, authorities said.

Police brandished shields as they faced off with protesters in a cloud of tear gas at Place de la République, a busy pedestrian square in central Paris. Angry protesters hurled glass shards and rocks at police, set a small fire and smashed a bus shelter.

 


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