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Israel, Hamas accept Egyptian cease-fire plan

BY JOSEF FEDERMAN Associated Press

JERUSALEM -

Israel and Hamas on Monday accepted an Egyptian cease-fire proposal meant to halt a bruising monthlong war that has claimed nearly 2,000 lives, raising hopes that the bloodiest round of fighting between the bitter enemies could finally be coming to an end.

Still, both sides signaled a rough road ahead, with an Israeli official expressing skepticism given previous failures, and a Palestinian negotiator saying "it's going to be tough."

A last-minute burst of violence, including a deadly Palestinian attack in Jerusalem, continued bloodshed in Gaza and the reported execution of a number of suspected collaborators with Israel, served as reminders of the lingering risk of renewed violence.

After weeks of behind-the-scenes diplomacy, and a previous truce that collapsed within hours on Friday, Israel and Hamas both announced late Monday that they had accepted the proposal for a preliminary 72-hour cease-fire, beginning at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) today. Egypt was then set to host indirect talks to work out a long-term truce over the next three days.

"At 8 a.m. local time tomorrow a cease-fire starts and Israel will cease all military operations against terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip," said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev. "Israel will honor the cease-fire and will be watching to see if Hamas does, too."

The war broke out on July 8 when Israel launched an air offensive in response to weeks of heavy rocket fire out of Hamas-controlled Gaza. It expanded the operation on July 17 by sending in ground forces in what it described as a mission to destroy a network of tunnels used to stage attacks. Israel says the last of the tunnels has nearly been destroyed.

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