Israel and Hamas on Monday accepted an Egyptian cease-fire proposal meant to halt a monthlong war, signaling an end to the bloodiest round of fighting between the bitter enemies could finally be approaching.
The sides said a preliminary 72-hour truce was to begin at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) Tuesday. Egypt was then set to host indirect talks to work out a long-term truce over the next three days.
A delegation of Palestinian officials from various factions, including Hamas, has been negotiating with Egypt in recent days. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the group had accepted the plan.
"It's clear now that the interest of all parties is to have a cease-fire," said Bassam Salhi, a member of the Palestinian delegation. "It's going to be tough negotiations because Israel has demands too."
The war broke out on July 8 when Israel launched an air campaign in response to heavy rocket fire out of Hamas-controlled Gaza. Israel expanded the operation by sending in ground forces on July 17 in what it described as a mission to destroy a network of tunnels used by Hamas militants to stage attacks. The army said it is close to destroying the last of the tunnels.
Several previous cease-fires have collapsed, including a similar plan for a 72-hour truce that broke down last Friday in heavy fighting. Both sides blamed each other.
An Israeli official said Israel would respect the cease-fire, but that it was watching the negotiations "with a certain amount of skepticism" given the previous failures.
He spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement by the Israeli government.