Hamas asks for new truce as Israel resumes Gaza assault

GAZA – The Islamist Hamas movement on Sunday belatedly accepted diplomatic calls for an extension of a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza shortly after Israel said it was resuming its devastating military assault.

There was no immediate word on whether Israel would reciprocate, with a Hamas spokesman saying the movement had agreed to halt its fire from 1100 GMT in response to a request from the United Nations.

The move came just hours after Israel said it would no longer abide by a unilateral ceasefire which had been rejected out of hand by Hamas as unacceptable without a full withdrawal of Israeli armour from the war-torn Gaza Strip.

With the situation rapidly changing, there was no immediate indication that either side had halted their fire, with several loud explosions heard in Gaza City, an AFP correspondent said.

The renewed violence came after a rare 12-hour break in the hostilities on Saturday, which was respected by both sides, with world powers urging both Israel and Hamas to extend the temporary truce.

"We all call on parties to extend the humanitarian ceasefire currently in force, by 24 hours that could be renewed," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at a Paris summit also attended by the top diplomats from the US, Britain, Germany, Italy, Qatar, Turkey and the EU.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also issued a statement, saying he "urgently appeals once again to all parties to declare a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza" where the fighting has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Palestinians and 46 people in Israel.

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Aaj Kal