Israel agrees to temporary ceasefire
A view from southern Israel into Gaza during the ceasefire (Menahem Kahana/ AFP).
Israel on Wednesday agreed to temporarily halt its assault on Gaza after United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry called for a "humanitarian ceasefire."
The ceasefire will come into effect on Thursday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., an Israeli military spokesperson said.
The Israeli Defense Ministry said that the ceasefire was meant not only for humanitarian reasons but also for Gazans to see the damage wrought by Israel in the last week and a half, Israeli news site Ynet reported.
Additionally, the army forbade residents of Beit Lahiya, Shujaeiya, and Zeitoun in the northern Gaza Strip from returning to their homes after 3 p.m.
In recent days, the army has massed along the northern border and issued evacuation notices for more than 100,000 residents, raising fears of a full-scale ground invasion.
Many residents of the northern Gaza Strip, however, have nowhere else to go, as Gaza's borders with both Israel and Egypt are fully closed to travelers as they have been for the majority of the last seven years.
The move came hours after the killing of four Palestinian children playing on a beach provoked international outrage, on a day in which 23 Palestinians were killed and dozens injured on the ninth day of the Israeli assault on Gaza.
Ahed Atef Bakr, 10, Zakariya Ahed Bakr, 10, Mohammad Ramiz Bakr, 11, and Ismail Mahmoud Bakr, 9 were playing on a beach in Gaza City when an offshore Israeli boat fired shells at them, killing them all and injuring a number of others.
Also on Wednesday evening, two more Palestinians succumbed to wounds suffered in Israeli airstrikes earlier in the day.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health identified the two dead as Hussam Jamal Shamlakh, 23, and Muhammad Kamel, Abd al-Rahman, 30, who were both from Gaza City.
222 Palestinians have been killed and 1,670 injured in nine days of Israeli assault on the besieged coastal enclave, while one Israeli has been killed and four injured in rocket fire launched into Israel.
Israel says the assault is meant to target Hamas and end rocket fire onto Israeli towns, but critics charge that rocket fire only increased after Israel launched a major campaign across the West Bank in June that killed half a dozen Palestinians, injured 130, and detained more than 600 Hamas-affiliated individuals in response to the kidnapping of three Israeli youths.