The U.N. Security Council agreed on a statement late Sunday calling for "an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire" in the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas at an emergency meeting just after midnight early Monday morning.
The council met as Muslims start celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Its agreement to press for a cease-fire follows new attacks launched by Israel and Hamas despite going back and forth over proposals for another temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting.
A 12-hour lull Saturday, agreed to by both sides following intense U.S. and United Nations mediation efforts, could not be sustained.
The Security Council urged Israel and Hamas "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian cease-fire into the Eid period and beyond." It said this would allow for the delivery of urgently needed assistance.
The statement also called on the parties "to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected cease-fire, based on the Egyptian initiative."
Rwanda, the current council president, announced agreement Sunday night on the presidential statement and the immediate meeting. The statement was drafted by Jordan, the Arab representative on the U.N.'s most powerful body.
Presidential statements become part of the council's official record and must be approved at a council meeting. They are a step below Security Council resolutions, but unlike resolutions they require approval of all 15 members.
The statement agreed on Sunday never names either Israel or Hamas. Instead, it expresses "grave concern regarding the deterioration in the situation as a result of the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties."
The statement calls for "full respect" for international humanitarian law and reiterates "the need to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians and their protection."
The statement also commends efforts by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to achieve a cease-fire. Ban is scheduled to address U.N. correspondents on Monday morning on his mission.
Hamas OKs 24-hour cease-fire
Earlier on Sunday, Hamas fighters and other Palestinian factions on Sunday agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce in its conflict with Israel in the Gaza Strip, according to the group's spokesman. Hamas announced the cease-fire after studying a United Nations proposal for a temporary truce and taking into consideration the situation of the people of Gaza and the Muslim Eid al-Fitr celebrations expected to start Monday.
There was no immediate word from Israel, which called off its own 24-hour truce earlier Sunday after rockets fired by Hamas fighters were met with fierce Israeli shelling, in a fresh setback to efforts to secure a permanent cease-fire.
Palestinian fighters said they had fired at least 20 rockets towards Israel overnight and into the morning. Air-raid sirens sounded throughout southern and central Israel during morning rush hour. At least five rockets landed in Israel and two others were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the Israeli military said.
Israeli responded by pounding targets along the coastal enclave, sending thick plumes of black smoke rising into the sky. Palestinian witnesses reported heavy shelling east of Gaza City, with ambulances immediately racing towards the area. The Gaza Health Ministry said two Palestinians were killed at the Nusairat refugee camp in central Gaza and three others in Khan Younis in the south.
At least 1,034 Gazans — mostly civilians — have been killed and 6,233 injured in the fighting. An Israeli soldier was also killed overnight by cross-border mortar fire, bringing the army death toll to 43 soldiers.
"Following Hamas' incessant rocket fire throughout the humanitarian window, which was agreed upon for the welfare of the civilian population in Gaza, the (army) will now resume its aerial, naval and ground activity in the Gaza Strip," an Israeli military statement read.
Israel and Hamas had agreed to a 12-hour cease-fire on Saturday to allow Palestinians to stock up on vital supplies and retrieve bodies trapped under the rubble.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet decided to extend the quiet until midnight on Sunday, on condition that its forces could continue to track down and destroy tunnels that criss-cross the Gaza border.
Hamas rejected the proposal and said its forces would keep fighting as long as Israeli troops remained in Gaza. The group said it had fired at the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Ashdod. No damage or injuries were reported.
In a call with Netanyahu on Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the United States is growing more concerned about the rising number of civilian deaths in Gaza.
Still, Obama reiterated that Israel has a right to defend itself and condemned Hamas' rocket attacks.
Obama said a lasting peace will ultimately require a demilitarized Gaza and dismantling of militant groups and an immediate, unconditional cease-fire that would allow Israeli and Palestinian civilians a return to normalcy.
Israel says it hit UN shelter
Israel launched its Gaza offensive on July 8 to halt rocket attacks by Hamas and its allies, which have struggled under an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade on Gaza and were angered by a crackdown on their supporters in the nearby occupied West Bank.
After aerial and naval bombardment failed to quell the outgunned Hamas fighters, Israel poured ground forces into the Gaza Strip 10 days later, looking to knock out Hamas's rocket stores and destroy the vast network of tunnels.
On Sunday, the Israeli military acknowledged that it fired a mortar shell that hit the courtyard of a U.N. school in Gaza last week but said the yard was empty at the time.
Palestinian officials have said three Israeli tank shells hit the school, which served as a shelter, in the town of Beit Hanoun on Thursday, killing 16 people.
Thirty seconds of footage released by the military showed what it said was the empty courtyard and a blast, apparently from the mortar. It was impossible to determine exactly when the footage was filmed.
Photos from the scene shortly afterward showed bloodstains and people's belongings strewn about.
Meanwhile, there appeared to be little progress on the diplomatic front and in international efforts to secure an end to the conflict. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew back to Washington overnight after meeting in Paris with foreign ministers of France, Italy, Britain, Germany, Turkey and Qatar.
The positions of both Israel and Hamas regarding a long-lasting halt to hostilities appear as far apart as ever. Hamas wants an end to the blockade of Gaza before agreeing to halt hostilities. Israeli officials said any cease-fire must allow the military to carry on hunting down the Hamas tunnels.
Some of the tunnels reach into Israeli territory and have been used to carry out surprise attacks on Israelis. Other underground passages serve as weapons caches and Hamas bunkers.
Israel says its forces have uncovered more than 30 tunnels, with four shafts discovered on Saturday alone. One official said troops had found it easier to operate during the truce as the immediate threat to their safety was diminished.
The Gaza turmoil has stoked tensions amongst Palestinians in mainly Arab East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Medics said eight Palestinians were killed on Friday in incidents near the West Bank cities of Nablus and Hebron — the sort of death toll reminiscent of previous uprisings against Israel's prolonged military rule there.
During the lull in fighting inside Gaza on Saturday, residents flooded into the streets to discover scenes of massive destruction in some areas, including Beit Hanoun in the north and Shejaia in the east.
Al Jazeera and wire services