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Middle East Unrest

Mortar Strike Kills 5 Israeli Troops Ahead of Cease-Fire

Five Israeli soldiers were killed in a mortar strike near the Gaza border Thursday, the military said in a statement issued just hours before a 72-hour truce in the fighting was set to begin.

The latest casualties bring the total of Israelis killed in the nearly three-week-old conflict to 61 soldiers and 3 civilians. At least 1,437 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed as of Thursday morning, and another 8,000 wounded, officials said.

There was a glimmer of hope Thursday as Israel and Hamas agreed to a 72-hour “unconditional humanitarian cease-fire” in Gaza. It is set to commence at 8 a.m. local time (1 a.m. ET) on Friday.

A joint statement from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and United States Secretary of State John Kerry said, “Israeli and Palestinian delegations will immediately be going to Cairo for negotiations with the Government of Egypt, at the invitation of Egypt, aimed at reaching a durable ceasefire."

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— Phil Helsel