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Hamas says it agrees to a 24-hour truce in the Gaza war, ahead of Eid al-Fitr

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    Israeli left wing activists hold a sign during a demonstration against the Gaza war, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, July 26, 2014. Hamas says it has fired five rockets at Israel after rejecting Israel's offer to extend a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire by four hours. The Palestinian militant group says two of the rockets were aimed at Tel Aviv. Police in Israel's second-largest city dispersed a peace rally attended by several thousand people because of the threat. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

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    Masked Palestinian militants of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, march during a demonstration against the Israeli military action in Gaza, in Balata refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus, Saturday, July 26, 2014. Hamas said it fired five rockets at Israel late Saturday after rejecting Israel's offer to extend a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire by four hours, casting new doubt on international efforts to broker an end to 19 days of fighting. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

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    Police officers separate Israeli supporters, left, and Palestinian supporters in Toronto on Saturday, July 26, 2014 during rallies over the war between Israel and Hamas members in the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)

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    A Palestinian supporter waves a flag as others create a human barricade shielding them from opposing Israeli supporters during a rally protesting the war between Israel and Hamas members in the Gaza Strip in Toronto on Saturday, July 26, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)

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    Smoke from Israeli strikes rises over Gaza City on Sunday in the northern Gaza Strip.

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Smoke from Israeli strikes rises over Gaza City on Sunday in the northern Gaza Strip.

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas on Sunday agreed to observe a 24-hour humanitarian truce after initially rejecting such an offer by Israel, as fighting resumed and the two sides wrangled over the terms of a lull the international community hopes can be expanded into a more sustainable truce.

Between the rival announcements Palestinian militants fired rockets deep into Israel, prompting it to resume an offensive aimed at destroying rocket launchers and cross-border attack tunnels used by Hamas.

Hours later Hamas said it would be willing to abide by a new 24-hour humanitarian truce ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the truce would go into effect at 2 p.m. (1100 GMT) Sunday. The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday is expected to begin Monday or Tuesday, depending on the sighting of the new moon.

Israel had offered a 24-hour truce late Saturday, but Hamas -- which has demanded the lifting of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza as well as the release of Palestinian prisoners -- rejected it.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, did not say if Israel would hold its fire during the time requested by Hamas, but said troops would continue demolishing militant tunnels.

The 20-day war has killed more than 1,050 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to Palestinian health officials. Israel has lost 43 soldiers. Two civilians and a Thai worker in Israel were killed by rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza.

The military had earlier said about a dozen rockets were fired toward Israel since midnight -- without causing casualties or damage -- and that as a result it would “resume its aerial, naval and ground activity in the Gaza Strip.” The Israeli military released a video showing a rocket being fired from what it said was a Gaza school.

“Once again Hamas is cynically using the people of Gaza as a human shield,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

The 12-hour lull on Saturday -- agreed to by both sides following intense U.S. and U.N. mediation efforts -- saw Palestinians return to neighborhoods reduced to rubble and allowed medics to collect close to 150 bodies, Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said.

The Israeli military says it is doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, including by sending evacuation warnings to residents in targeted areas, and blames Hamas for putting civilians in harm’s way.

Hamas and other militants in Gaza have fired more than 2,400 rockets at Israel since hostilities began on July 8, many deep into the Israeli heartland and toward most of the country’s major cities.

Casualties on the Israeli side have stayed relatively low thanks to Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome aerial defense system and because residents have been vigilant about seeking shelter quickly upon hearing the air raid sirens.

Before the announcement of the holiday cease-fire, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri had said any truce must include a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and that tens of thousands of displaced people must be allowed to return to their homes. Israel’s current terms were “not acceptable,” he said in a text message to journalists.

Israel’s acceptance of the cease-fire extension was premised on its soldiers remaining in Gaza to destroy the more than 30 tunnels the military says it has found in the densely populated coastal strip.

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