Kerry says no Gaza ceasefire reached yet as Israel agrees to 12-hour 'pause'

A US official with Kerry said Israel had unilaterally agreed to a 12-hour pause, but a 7-day ceasefire was rejected.

Afp July 25, 2014

CAIRO: US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday no long-term ceasefire deal had been reached yet in the conflict in Gaza even as an aide said Israel had agreed to a shorter, unilateral 12-hour long halt to hostilities in the narrow, barricaded Gaza strip.

Expectations had mounted all day for an end to the 18-day conflict as Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon pushed for a seven-day ceasefire, but Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said neither Israel nor Hamas had shown "enough willingness to negotiate" to end the fighting that has already left more than 850 people dead mostly Palestinian civilians.

"We still have some terminology in the context of the framework to work through. But we are confident we have a fundamental framework" to agree on a truce, said Kerry, who has been leading international efforts to reach a truce, at a press conference in Cairo with Shoukri and Ban.

Minutes after the press conference a US official travelling with Kerry told reporters that Israel had announced a unilateral 12-hour ceasefire starting on Saturday morning.

"Israel has agreed to a 12-hour ceasefire from 07:00 am Saturday," the US official said, but it was unclear whether the ceasefire was due to start at 7:00 am Israeli time or GMT.

But there was no immediate official confirmation from Israel.

Kerry said at the press conference that he had not submitted any formal truce proposal.

"They may have rejected some language in the proposal within the framework ... but there was no formal proposal submitted from me," he said.

Diplomats said both sides were asked to accept a seven-day truce during which negotiations would take place on the Gaza blockade and other disputes.

"We believe that seven days will give all the parties the opportunity to step back from the violence and focus on the underlying process," Kerry said.

He said he would travel to Paris on Saturday to hold further talks with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, which exert influence over the militant Hamas rulers of Gaza.

Also present at the Paris talks will be French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and the European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, as well as foreign ministers from Britain, Germany and Italy, a French diplomaitc source said.

The United States has worked with Egypt on a plan that, diplomats say, would provide a humanitarian pause during which Cairo would host negotiations on key issues such as Israel's eight-year blockade of Gaza.

Earlier Friday Israeli public television reported that the Jewish state's cabinet rejected the ceasefire.

Hamas, which has been firing rockets into Israel, rejected an earlier Egyptian-drafted ceasefire proposal.

Ban too urged a seven-day halt to fighting along with Kerry.

"Solutions must be based on three important issues, First to stop the fighting we call for seven day humanitarian ceasefire extending until the Eid period and beginning with an extendable 12-hour pause," he said.

"Second, start talking. There is no military solution to addressing the grievances and all parties must find the way to dialogue. Third, tackle the root causes of the crisis."

Hamas has laid out a set of conditions for agreeing to a ceasefire, among them the lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the release of Palestinian prisoners Israel has rearrested after freeing them in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.