After weeks of fighting and hundreds of deaths, some semblance of peace may be coming to the Middle East — at least temporarily.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Thursday that an unconditional humanitarian cease-fire will begin at 8 a.m. Friday in Gaza (1 a.m. ET). It will last 72 hours — or three days — "unless extended," the United Nations and United States said in a joint statement.
"During this time, the forces on the ground will remain in place," the statement said.
Israel has accepted the cease-fire, officials in its prime minister's office texted CNN. So, too, has Hamas, a spokesman for the militant fundamentalist Islamic organization texted.
Speaking to CNN moments after the announcement, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said it came "after careful deliberations with all the parties."
As all this is going on, Israeli and Palestinian officials should be meeting in Cairo to try to reach "a durable cease-fire," the U.N. and U.S. statement said. "The parties will be able to raise issues of concern in these negotiations."
Will they be able to reach a breakthrough?
The past doesn't suggest such is likely, at least anything that will lead to a solution to issues that Israelis and Palestinians have been grappling with for decades. And the animosity between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza, runs especially deep, with both sides accusing each other of putting each others civilians at risk.
John Kerry called the talks — to be mediated by Egypt — "a lull of opportunity … to try to find address ways to obtain a sustainable cease-fire," while admitting there are "no guarantees."
As he noted, "Everyone knows it has been easy to get to this point."
Erakat offered similar sentiments about the latest negotiations, which he said will include "all Palestinian factions" — not just Hamas.
"It's a difficult road," said the longtime Palestinian official. "I am hoping against hope that we can (make) every possible effort, with the help of everyone out there, (to) reach a permanent cease-fire."
The latest round of violence, which started earlier this summer, has been particularly bad. At least 1,432 people have been killed in Gaza during the current conflict, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. That's more than the 1,417 Palestinians that the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said died in the 22 days of Israel's Operation Cast Lead, which spanned 2008 and 2009.
Those killed in the ongoing hostilities — which are tied to the Israeli military's Operation Protective Edge — include 327 children and 166 women, the Gaza health ministry reports.
The bloodshed prompted the United Nations' top human rights official to warn earlier that war crimes may have been committed, accusing Israel of "deliberate defiance of obligations (to) international law."
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay referred to the shelling of homes, schools, hospitals and U.N. "premises," while insisting, "We cannot allow this impunity, we cannot allow this lack of accountability to go on."
"None of this appears, to me, to be accidental," Pillay said.
The scale of the violence, as well as the international condemnation of it, could drive both sides to peace. But even if it does, some Palestinians — like Samy Bahraqe, who is in a U.N. camp after her home was destroyed — aren't looking forward to the future.
"Life is meaningless," Bahraqe said. "… What dreams in life can we have now that everything is ruined?"