Israel declares 7-hour humanitarian truce in Gaza

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Israel said on Monday that it will hold its fire for seven hours in most of the Gaza Strip.

The unilateral truce will be in place on Monday between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM (7:00-14:00 GMT), the Israeli military said in a notice after a month-long fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The truce will not apply to the southern town of Rafah, where Israeli soldiers are still operating, the statement said.

The military said the truce was aimed to facilitate humanitarian aid to the Palestinian enclave and to allow the displaced population return home.

However, it warned that Israel "will respond to any attempt to exploit this window to harm Israeli civilians and Israel Defense Forces soldiers."

The United Nations estimates that a quarter of Gaza's population of about 460,000 people are now displaced. Many civilians' houses were destroyed in Israeli bombardments.

The latest truce comes amidst international outrage at Israel's missile attack on Sunday on a U.N. school in Rafah, which killed 10 people and wounded 30, bringing the total death toll in Gaza to at least 1,820, the vast majority of them civilians, according to Palestinian health officials.

The U.S. slammed Israel in a rare harsh criticism, saying it was "appalled" by the "disgraceful" attack. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the attack on the school, where some 3,000 Palestinians were seeking refuge from the fighting, was "a moral outrage and a criminal act."

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said it had completed the withdrawal of the majority of its ground forces from the Gaza Strip, after inflicting "substantial damage" to a network of cross- border tunnels and other infrastructure Hamas uses in the fight against Israel.

Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians during the 28- day offensive, according to Israeli military and police. Endi

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