The Israeli army said Wednesday it has agreed to a "humanitarian" pause in strikes in the Gaza Strip. The five-hour cessation in shelling is scheduled for Thursday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. local time, a statement from the Israel Defense Forces read. Israel said it was prepared to honor the cease-fire as long as Hamas, which rules Gaza, didn't use the pause to launch its own strikes.
"This humanitarian window is meant to allow the civilian population of the Gaza Strip to engage in resupply for their humanitarian needs," the statement read. "Should the humanitarian window be exploited by Hamas or other terror organizations for the purpose of launching attacks against Israeli civilian or military targets the IDF will respond firmly and decisively."
In a briefing Wednesday afternoon, President Obama reiterated that Israel has a right to defend itself from "rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people," but added that civilians on both sides deserve to "live in peace and security, free from fear." Obama said the United States will continue diplomatic efforts in the region to close a deal on a cease-fire.
Israeli officials in Washington said the pause in hostilities was in response to a request from Robert Serry, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process. The cease-fire will allow aid to come into Gaza through checkpoints. More than 200 people have died in Gaza since the attacks began last week, including four children who were killed in a strike Wednesday while playing on the beach.
—Becky Bratu and Andrea Mitchell
First published July 16 2014, 1:07 PM