Middle East Unrest

Brief Gaza Ceasefire Begins as Palestinian Death Toll Nears 900

A 12-hour cease-fire between Israel and Hamas went into effect Saturday morning in Gaza, but not before the Gaza health ministry reported the deaths of 18 Palestinians from one family. Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said the Al-Najar family had been trapped in their house by fighting in the southern Gaza Strip since Thursday and the home was hit by Israeli tank fire, Reuters reported. The deaths pushed the number of Palestinians killed in weeks of airstrikes and fighting toward 900. Forty Israelis, including 37 soldiers, and a Thai worker have also been killed.

The cease-fire announced by Israel was to run for 12 hours from 8 a.m. local time (1 a.m. ET). The Associated Press quoted a Hamas spokesman as saying the group had agreed the pause, though NBC News had not confirmed that. Earlier Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry said talks aimed at a seven-day humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza Strip were bogged down over "some terminology." But he expressed confidence a longer-term agreement would be reached.