Israel has agreed to halt its attacks on Gaza for five hours Thursday in accordance to a deal brokered by the United Nations' special envoy to the Middle East, Robert H. Serry. The temporary break from assaults for a "humanitarian window" comes after days of airstrikes between the Israeli military and Hamas and the death of more than 200 Palestinians.
The Associated Press reports that it remains unclear whether militants in Palestine would reciprocate, though Israel has vowed to strike aggressively should the temporary ceasefire be violated:
Israel said it would hold its fire Thursday from 10 a.m. (0700 GMT, 3 a.m. EDT) under a U.N.-brokered plan to allow Palestinians to restock food, water and other necessities. But it vowed to retaliate "firmly and decisively" if Hamas or other militant groups launch attacks on Israel during that time.
Even with the five-hour reprieve, all signs point to Israel's attacks escalating soon. From the Wall Street Journal:
Despite Israel's success in limiting the costs inflicted by rocket fire from Hamas and other Palestinian militant factions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli authorities have repeatedly warned that they are prepared to escalate the war to end the rocket barrages, which have caused one death and disrupted daily life across the country.
While underscoring the increasing impatience of Israel's political and military establishment with Hamas and making plain that there were contingency plans for the re-occupation of the Gaza Strip, the senior military official said most Israeli policy makers still opposed any attempt to end Hamas rule in Gaza.
A senior Israeli military official, reports the New York Times, has said that the likelihood of Israel mounting a ground invasion grows with "every day that passes." More from the Times:
The stark assessment came as Israel bombed 60 targets, most of them in northern Gaza, after warning 100,000 residents to evacuate their homes by 8 a.m. via leaflets, text messages, and automated telephone calls. The Palestinian death toll reached at least 205 by late afternoon, including four children killed in a strike on the seashore.
The lone Israeli casualty, a 37-year-old man killed by a mortar round as he distributed food to soldiers Tuesday night near the Erez crossing, was eulogized by Israel's president-elect, Reuven Rivlin, at an afternoon funeral.
A ceasefire agreement proposed by Egypt earlier this week failed.
[Image via AP]