World News : Israel agreed to a UN request to halt its bombardment of Gaza for five hours on humanitarian grounds, after its naval strikes killed four children on a beach Wednesday.
The punishing strikes aimed at halting cross-border rocket fire by Hamas militants had resumed after Egyptian-brokered truce efforts collapsed Tuesday.
Israel´s campaign, now in its ninth day, has killed 220 Palestinians so far, with a Gaza-based human rights group saying over 80 percent of them were civilians.
In the same period, militants have fired more than 1,200 rockets at Israel. They claimed their first Israeli life on Tuesday.
Hamas rejected the Egyptian truce efforts, saying it had not been included in the discussions. The Israeli army announced it would halt its bombardment of Gaza between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm (0700 to 1200 GMT) Thursday, following a UN request for a humanitarian truce.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process Robert Serry earlier told Israel´s Channel Two television, that he had asked the military for a “humanitarian pause” in its Gaza offensive and that, if it agreed, he would ask Gaza militants to follow suit.
Hamas said it was considering the request.”Hamas has been informed about the UN proposal for a truce of several hours tomorrow,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.
“The proposal is being studied and when a decision has been taken, it will be announced officially in a statement.
“As part of the peace initiative, a Hamas official met Egyptian leaders while Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas arrived in Cairo to join the diplomatic efforts.
In addition to the four killed children, several people were also wounded in an apparent Israeli naval bombardment of a beach in Gaza City, medics said.
The first strike hit at around 1300 GMT, prompting terrified children and adults on the beach to scatter. A second and third struck as they ran, setting fire to huts on the beach.
The strikes appeared to be the result of shelling by the Israeli navy against an area with small shacks used by fishermen.
Several children ran inside a hotel where at least three had shrapnel injuries.The four bodies were later taken to Abu Hasira mosque, near where the boys had died.
The boys, all from the Bakr family, were laid out, wrapped in the yellow flags of the Fatah party, in front of mourners.
Several hours after the strikes, the Israeli military described the deaths as “tragic” and said it was investigating the incident.”Based on preliminary results, the target of this strike was Hamas terrorist operatives,” the military said in a statement. “The reported civilian casualties from this strike are a tragic outcome.” Agencies