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Hamas, Israel begin 12-hour pause in fighting, but truce remains elusive

  • US Mideast Israel Palestinians-1.jpg

    Demonstrators march and chant in support of Palestinians during a rally in Atlanta on Friday, July 25, 2014 in the wake of the war between Israel and Hamas members in the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Ron Harris) (The Associated Press)

  • US Mideast Israel Palestinians-2.jpg

    Muslims pray outside the Wilshire Federal Building in Los Angeles on Friday, July 25, 2014 to show support for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the war between Israel and Hamas members. (AP Photo) (The Associated Press)

A 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire has begun to allow civilians in Gaza to receive aid and evacuate to safer areas.

The Israeli military says Saturday's 12-hour pause began at 8 a.m. (1:00 a.m. EST, 0500 GMT). It warned the military "shall respond if terrorists choose to exploit" the lull to attack Israeli troops or civilians. The military said "operational activities to locate and neutralize tunnels in the Gaza Strip will continue."

Previous humanitarian cease-fires have been cut short by fighting.

Civilians on both sides have been hardest hit over the past 18 days. Nearly 900 Palestinians and 40 Israelis have been killed.

The lull was agreed upon by both sides after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal.