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Israel, Hamas agree to 12 hour ceasefire

As the Palestinian death toll nears 850, both sides have agreed to a 12 hour pause in the fighting.

An Israeli artillery fires a 155mm shell towards targets in the Gaza Strip from their position near Israel's border with the Palestinian enclave on 23 July 2014. Picture: AFP.

JERUSALEM - Hamas and Israel have agreed on a 12 hour ceasefire, starting this morning.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to broker an agreement between Hamas and Israel but it appears both sides have only agreed to a 12 hour pause in the fighting.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer says, "They're doing the 12 hour pause as a humanitarian gesture, so they're not going to accept that seven day proposal for a ceasefire right now."

He says, "It's frustrating for Kerry and some of the others because they've worked really hard to try to achieve it."

But the Israelis say it goes too far and contains conditions that were not accepted or included in the original Egyptian proposal, which they'd accepted about a week ago and Hamas rejected.

Meanwhile, a government source said on Friday Israel rejected international proposals for a ceasefire in its fight against Islamist militants in Gaza.

But the US Secretary of State said no formal proposals had yet been put forward.

Mediators hope that a truce could come into force ahead of a Muslim festival that starts early next week, but they have struggled to resolve seemingly irreconcilable demands from Israel and Hamas-led fighters, locked in conflict since 8 July.

As diplomacy faltered, the fighting raged on.

Gaza officials said Israeli strikes killed 55 people on Friday, including the head of media operations for Hamas ally Islamic Jihad and his son.

They put the number of Palestinian deaths in 18 days of conflict at 844, most of them civilians.

Dozens of Israeli soldiers have also been killed.

Militants fired a barrage of rockets out of Gaza, triggering sirens across much of southern and central Israel, including at the country's main airport. No injuries were reported, with the Iron Dome interceptor system knocking out many of the missiles.

Speaking in Cairo, Kerry told reporters that, although Israel may have rejected some language in a truce proposal draft, there "was no formal proposal, or final proposal, or proposal ready (for) a vote submitted to Israel".

The top U.S. diplomat said there were still disagreements on the terminology, but he was confident there was a framework that would ultimately succeed and that "serious progress" had been made, although there was more work to do.

The search for a breakthrough will continue in Paris on Saturday when France hosts diplomats from the United States, Britain, Germany, Italy, the European Union, Turkey and Qatar, a French diplomatic source said.

"We are working toward a brief seven days of peace. Seven days of a humanitarian ceasefire in honour of Eid in order to be able to bring people together to try to work to create a more durable, sustainable ceasefire for the long (term)," Kerry said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at the same news conference, threw his weight behind a seven-day humanitarian truce, saying it could start with an extendable 12-hour stoppage.

A U.S. official said later that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Kerry Israel would begin a 12-hour pause in Gaza hostilities starting at 7 a.m. Israeli time on Saturday.

Israel did not comment on the report.