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Israel declares 7-hour ceasefire

Israel said it would hold fire in most of the Gaza Strip to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid.

FILE: Israel said it would hold fire in most of the Gaza Strip on Monday to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid.  Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Israel has declared a seven-hour humanitarian truce beginning this morning in most of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military says it will unilaterally hold fire to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid and for displaced Palestinians to return to their homes.

But it says it will fight back if attacked.

The truce will not apply in areas of the southern Gazan town of Rafah where Israeli forces are involved in ongoing clashes.

The announcement comes after the United Nations strongly criticised a third deadly missile strike on a United Nations school sheltering Palestinians, saying Israel is repeatedly informed of the location of these sites.

Meanwhile, a pro-Palestinian activist says the South African government is not doing enough for the plight of the Palestinians.

Dozens of people in Cape Town were part of the save Gaza picket in sea point on Sunday.

There've been a series of similar campaigns in the mother city over the past few weeks.

Gaza officials say 1,788 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed and more than a quarter of the impoverished enclave's 1.8 million residents displaced.

As many as 3,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed or damaged.

Activist Bennie Bunsee says local government should do more to help the situation in Gaza.

He says South Africa benefited from the international support during its hard times and the government should replicate the same model.

"We quite shocked at the fact that after the kind of support we got from the international community in our liberation here that we can't give the same kind of support when the whole world is up in arms against what the Israel is doing in Gaza."

LENK ASKED TO LEAVE SA

Israel's ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk has brushed off calls for him to leave the country as the conflict escalates.

Lenk rubbished the criticism leveled against his country over Gaza saying people should rather call for peace.

He attended a massive picnic organized by the South African Zionist Federation, which was designed to show solidarity with Israel as the death toll continues to mount since it began last month.

"I'm proud to be here with thousands and thousands of South Africans who are calling for peace, for co-existence and for better times for Israelis and Palestinians.

Other activists staged their anti-Israel protests out the venue where the event was held and police had to be called in to quell tensions.

The Economic Freedom Fighters, ANC Youth League, the South African Communist Party and several anti-Israeli lobby groups have mounted a campaign against Lenk, calling for the government to evict him from the country as a show of solidarity with the people of Gaza.

Thousands of pro-Israeli supporters gathered at Huddle Park in Linksfield, Johannesburg yesterday to show support for Israel.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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