ELIZABETH JACKSON: Residents of Gaza and southern Israel are set
to enjoy a reprieve from days of violence after Hamas agreed to join a temporary
Earlier, the Israeli military said it would also halt its attacks on the Gaza Strip beginning later tonight, Australian time, in what a senior UN official described as a "humanitarian pause" to give Palestinians a chance to buy food and seek medical help.
Confirmation of the truce came after reports that Israeli shelling had killed four Palestinian boys on a Gaza beach.
Barney Porter reports.
BARNEY PORTER: Funerals have already been held in Gaza for the four boys who were killed as they played near the sea.
Abu Ahmad was on the beach at the time.
ABU AHMAD (translated): Little kids, they were rummaging around for aluminium, plastic, metal scrap and wood. I had told them to go home but they didn't. Then later they were struck by the first rocket, which came from the direction of the sea and they went flying. Another shell then struck them and they were dead - four cousins, nine-year-olds and 10-year-olds.
BARNEY PORTER: Seven other adults and children were wounded in the strike.
A Palestinian human rights activist says the firing came from an Israeli naval vessel operating offshore.
Israeli Defence Force spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, has told CNN early reports indicate the vessel had been tracking a Hamas target.
PETER LERNER: We've opened our investigation in order to understand exactly the circumstances. Clearly it is a tragedy and we have to get to the bottom of the occurrences.
BARNEY PORTER: Their deaths take the Palestinian toll to around 220, after nine days of Israeli air strikes.
Another funeral service was held overnight, this time in Israel for the first fatality from an estimated 1,000 rockets fired into Israel by Palestinian militants.
The rising toll of mostly civilians, now on both sides of divide, has been driving world leaders to demand an end to the fighting.
This morning, the US president Barak Obama spoke.
BARACK OBAMA: The Israeli people and the Palestinian people don't want to live like this. They deserve to live in peace and security free from fear and that's why we're going to continue to encourage diplomatic efforts to restore the ceasefire and we support Egypt's continued efforts to bring this about.
BARNEY PORTER: European Union leaders have also been meeting.
The EU's president is Herman Van Rompuy.
HERMAN VAN ROMPUY: We condemn the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians.
We deeply deplore the loss of innocent lives and the high number of wounded civilians in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israeli military operations, and are deeply concerned about the rapid and dramatic deterioration of the humanitarian situation.
BARNEY PORTER: Overnight, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet held another emergency session.
Afterwards, he said the option of sending in ground forces to silence the Palestinian rocket attacks remained on the table and again defended his government's policies.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I think that the most important thing vis-a-vie Gaza is to ensure that Gaza is demilitarised from rockets and from the attack tunnels that Hamas is seeking, is building into Israel.
This is an important part of the long-term solution. But in the immediate moment, Israel has to take the actions to defend its citizens.
BARNEY PORTER: Since then, Israel has agreed to a televised appeal from the UN Middle-East peace envoy, Robert Serry, for what he described as a "humanitarian pause" to give Palestinians in Gaza a chance to buy food, and get medical attention.
Meanwhile, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, is in Cairo.
He says the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has held more talks with Egypt's president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to push for a permanent ceasefire but many hurdles remain in reaching a comprehensive deal acceptable to all parties.
SAEB EREKAT: I hope that we can find a balance. We trying, president Abbas is trying very, very hard and I'm not saying that things aren't fully ironed; there is difficulties there. There are gaps but we are determined to achieve what we came here to achieve because as I told you yesterday, failure is not an option.
BARNEY PORTER: The reinvigorated push for peace comes amid fresh indications the conflict could spread to the West Bank with Palestinian youths clashing with Israeli soldiers in two cities.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Barney Porter.