Israel extends 12-hour cease-fire, will it go past midnight? (+video)

Seven nations have asked Israel and Hamas to extend Saturday's cease-fire. Israel reportedly agreed to extend the cease-fire until midnight Saturday to discuss a longer extension.  What about Hamas?

By , Staff writer

In response to a call from seven foreign ministers to extend Saturday's 12-hour cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, Israel said yes to a four-hour extension.

The call for the cease-fire extension came as the death toll among Palestinians topped 1,000 after 18 days of conflict, and Israeli media report a death toll of 40 Israeli soldiers and three civilians. The number of Israeli soldiers hospitalized has reached 138, according to Haaretz.

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius issued a cease-fire extension request Saturday flanked by his counterparts from the U.S., Britain, Germany, Italy, Qatar and Turkey, as well as the EU's deputy foreign minister.  Mr. Fabuius also advocated a long-term truce that addresses Israel's concerns about security as well as Palestinian demands to open Gaza borders to allow more freedom of movement and commerce.

Recommended: How much do you know about the Palestinians? Take our quiz

At the Paris summit, there were no official representatives from Israel, Egypt, or the Palestinian Authority, but Hamas was represented by the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey.

Haaretz reports that the Israeli cabinet ministers agreed to a four-hour extension to the cease-fire, which would bring it to midnight Saturday local time. However, there's been no official confirmation that Hamas has agreed to an extension.

"In the security cabinet meeting Saturday evening, ministers will discuss the Gaza operation and the possibility of extending the cease-fire until the morning. The senior official notes that the IDF will not stop operations to destroy tunnels in the Strip during the cease-fire," reports Haaretz.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported, the rough outline of a Kerry peace plan - rejected by Israel Friday - included an initial step of both sides agreeing to an initial suspension of hostilities for at least five days or up to a week, beginning Sunday, to allow for humanitarian assistance to Gaza’s besieged civilian population.

Second, Israel and Hamas would begin negotiations toward a more long-term settlement of the Gaza crisis during the truce, with Egypt playing the role of mediator and the Palestinian Fatah organization participating.       

According to the plan, the United States, the European Union, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would serve as guarantors that the negotiations would work to the end goal of meeting both sides’ key demands: for Israel, ridding Gaza of the rockets and tunnels that pose a security threat to the Jewish state, and for Hamas, ending the Israeli embargo of Gaza that for years has choked the small Palestinian enclave

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Turkey lifted its ban on flights to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport. But it wasn't clear if the ban would resume. 

"Taking into account the current cease-fire situation, the flight ban on Israel's Ben Gurion airport has been lifted, pending a subsequent announcement," it said via its Twitter account, reported Reuters. Some 2,500 Israelis were stranded in Turkey due to the flight ban.

The FAA and some US airlines suspended flights to Tel Aviv this week when a Hamas rocket landed near the airport. But a Iron Dome battery officer intentionally did not shoot down that Hamas rocket because the system projected that it would land a mile away from the airport perimeter, reports Haaretz.

"The July 22nd rocket attack impacted at a distance of approximately one mile from the airport's outer perimeter fence," Giora Romm, director general of the CAAI, wrote in the memo. "The Israeli Air force, responsible for intercepting the rocket via the Iron Dome system, was aware of the projected impact point almost three minutes beforehand, and realized that it would hit outside Ben-Gurion's borders. In this particular case, the Air force chose not to intercept the rocket, for calculated reasons completely unrelated to Ben-Gurion."

According to Romm, "the Civil Aviation authority, in close coordination with The Israeli Airport Authority and the Israeli Air Force, has been working for the last two years on preparing a plan for Ben-Gurion's continued operation in the event of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel's central region, where the airport is located. The foundation of this contingency plan was the deployment of "Iron Dome" anti-rocket defense systems throughout Israel's center, in order to provide this central region's population (numbering over one million citizens), and Ben-Gurion Airport in particular, with protection against rocket attacks."

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