GAZA — Under international pressure to ease its 12-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip, Israel agreed on Wednesday to suspend the fighting for three hours a day and permit humanitarian relief goods to reach the beleaguered population. It was not immediately clear whether the militant Hamas movement, which governs Gaza, had also agreed to the plan.
The announcement by officials in Jerusalem came a day after Israeli mortar shells killed as many as 40 Palestinians, among them women and children, outside a United Nations school in Gaza.
Mark Regev, the spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said the idea behind relief corridors was to permit a flow of food and other aid to a population said by United Nations officials to be facing a humanitarian crisis. A statement late Tuesday from Mr. Olmert’s office said the pause — expected to begin Wednesday — would “entail opening geographic areas for certain periods of time during which the population would be able to equip itself and receive the assistance.”
The Associated Press quoted the Israeli B’Tselem human rights group as saying the military had informed it of a planned lull in the afternoon between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. local time, and some reports said the cease-fire had taken effect. Military officials said the Israeli measures would allow Gaza residents to leave their homes to seek medical help and buy food.
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