An Israeli soldier smokes a cigarette at a staging area outside the northern Gaza Strip November 21, 2012. Israel and Hamas agreed on Wednesday to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt on the eighth day of intensive Israeli fire on the Gaza Strip and militant rocket attacks out of the enclave, Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian sources said. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
LIVE COVERAGE: Conflict along the Gaza Strip
Egypt announced on Wednesday that a ceasefire had been reached to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, starting later in the day.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr made the announcement in a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The ceasefire would come into effect at 15:00 EDT, said Amr, whose country has been at the heart of efforts to broker an end to the conflict.
“Egypt has made great efforts … since the start of the latest escalation in the Gaza Strip,” Amr said.
“These efforts and contacts have resulted in understandings to cease fire and restore calm and halt the bloodshed that the last period has seen,” he added.
“Egypt calls on all to monitor the implementation of what has been agreed under Egypt’s sponsorship and to guarantee the commitment of all the parties to what has been agreed,” he said.
FLASH: Egyptian Foreign Minister announces Gaza ceasefire
FLASH: Ceasefire between Hamas and Israel agreed, according to a Palestinian official with knowledge of talks.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday pursued a Gaza truce, with Israel and Hamas still at odds over key terms, as Israeli air strikes shook the enclave and a bomb exploded on a Tel Aviv bus.
After talks in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Clinton held a second meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before travelling to Egypt for discussions with President Mohamed Mursi, whose country is the main broker in efforts to end eight days of fighting.
In Tel Aviv, targeted by rockets from Gaza that either did not hit the city or were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor system, 15 people were wounded when a commuter bus was blown up near the Defence Ministry and military headquarters.
Israel and the United States branded it a terrorist attack, and a White House statement reaffirmed Washington’s “unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security”.
The explosion, which police said was caused by a bomb placed on the vehicle, touched off celebratory gunfire from militants in Gaza and threatened to complicate truce efforts.
FLASH: Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq tells Reuters Gaza truce has been held up because Israel has yet to respond to proposals, says we “must wait until tomorrow.”
FLASH: Egyptian official says Gaza truce talks continuing, still hopeful for deal on Tuesday night.
FLASH: Israel and Gaza militants have agreed to the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, Hamas official Ayman Taha says. The Gaza truce will be declared at 1900 GMT and go into effect at 2200 GMT, the official said.
Egypt’s president predicted on Tuesday that Israel’s Gaza offensive would end later in the day, Egyptian state media said, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton headed to the region to try to calm the conflict.
“President Mohamed Mursi announced that the farce of Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip will end on Tuesday,” the MENA news agency and state TV reported, quoting public remarks he made after the funeral of his sister.
Egypt, led by an Islamist government allied with Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement and at peace with Israel, has been trying to broker a ceasefire in hostilities now in their seventh day.
Israel bombed dozens of targets in Gaza on Monday and said that while it was prepared to step up its offensive by sending in troops, it preferred a diplomatic solution that would end Palestinian rocket fire from the enclave.
Mediator Egypt said a deal for a truce to end the fighting could be close. The leader of Hamas said it was up to Israel to end the new conflict it had started. Israel says its strikes are to halt Palestinian missile attacks.
Twelve Palestinian civilians and four fighters were killed in the air strikes, bringing the Gaza death toll since fighting began on Wednesday to 90, more than half of them non-combatants, local officials said. Three Israeli civilians have been killed.
After an overnight lull, militants in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip fired 45 rockets at southern Israel, causing no casualties, police said. One damaged a school, but it was closed at the time.
READ ON: Israel says it prefers diplomacy but ready to invade Gaza
LIVE COVERAGE: Conflict along the Gaza Strip