(Reuters) – A 12-hour humanitarian truce went into effect on Saturday after Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip agreed to a U.N. request for a pause in fighting and efforts proceeded to secure a long-term ceasefire moved ahead.
The Gaza Health Ministry said 18 members of a single family were killed by Israeli tank shelling in the southern Gaza Strip shortly before the truce took effect at 8 a.m. (6 a.m. British Time). An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was checking the report.
Israel’s military said it would hold fire for 12 hours, but would press on with its search for tunnels used by militants. A spokesman for the Islamist group Hamas, which dominates Gaza, said all Palestinian factions would abide by the brief truce.
Hundreds of Palestinians poured into the streets in the minutes after the truce took force, some headed on foot to their homes to inspect damage from the Israeli assaults and many lined up outside banks to withdraw cash and stock up on supplies.
Fighting had continued overnight as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on a visit to the region, spearheaded international efforts to end 19 days of conflict in which 883 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed.
Gaza officials said five people were killed in Israeli air strikes in the night and militants fired a barrage of rockets out of Gaza, triggering sirens across much of southern and central Israel. No injuries were reported, with the Iron Dome interceptor system shooting down some of the projectiles.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said that 18 members of the Al-Najar family killed had been trapped inside their house in Khuzaa village east of Khan Younis since Thursday and that many others were wounded in Israeli tank shelling.
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