Israel will observe a “humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza after nine days of deadly rocket and missile exchanges with militants, a senior Israeli army officer was last night reported as saying.
Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai said the truce would be in force from 7am until noon UK time.
Palestinian officials say Israeli raids have killed at least 213 Gazans since the start of the violence last week.
The news came after Israeli military aircraft intensified attacks across the Gaza Strip yesterday, targeting senior Hamas leaders and bombing a coastal area where four Palestinian children were killed.
The renewed violence came after Hamas formally rejected a ceasefire proposal that had been accepted by Israel to end the nine-day-old conflict that has left at least 213 Palestinians and one Israeli dead.
Hamas yesterday fired dozens of rockets into Israel.
The Gaza interior ministry’s website said Israeli warplanes carried out dozens of airstrikes, targeting 30 houses, including those of senior Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar, Jamila Shanti, Fathi Hamas and Ismail Ashkar.
The four boys, who were cousins and ages nine to 11, were killed while playing on a beach west of Gaza City, said Ashraf al Kedra, a Palestinian doctor.
Seven others – adults and children – were wounded, he said.
The boys’ uncle, Abdel Kareem Bakr, 41, raged at Israel after the attack. “It’s a cold-blooded massacre,” he said. “It’s a shame they didn’t identify them as kids with all of the advanced technology they claim they’re using.”
The Israeli military said it was investigating the incident.
The Egyptian proposal had called for a halt in hostilities by Tuesday night to be followed by talks on the terms of a longer-term cease-fire, including easing a seven-year-old blockade by Israel and Egypt.
Hamas views an easing of the Israeli blockade as key to its survival but does not believe Egypt’s rulers – who deposed a sympathetic government in Cairo last year – can be a fair broker.
Alongside the airstrikes, Israel told thousands of residents of the northern town of Beit Lahiya and the Zeitoun and Shijaiyah neighbourhoods of Gaza City, all near the border with Israel, to evacuate their homes.
The Wafa Rehabilitation Centre in Shijaiyah, which cares for 15 disabled and elderly patients, received several calls demanding the patients evacuate.
English volunteer Rina Andolini, 32, said patients range in age from 12 to 70 and none can walk or move without assistance.
She said the patients are living in a state of fear, intensified by Israeli shelling.
“There is a rocket launching site in the area,” the Israeli military said, adding that Gaza militants use the centre to hide “behind civilians”.