Israel and the Hamas have agreed to an unconditional 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

The ceasefire has come into effect at 8am local time today.

In a joint statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry said: "It (the ceasefire) will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place.

"This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence.

"During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured and restocking food supplies."

The truce will also allow for repairs to be undertaken on essential water and energy infrastructure.

"The two countries are scheduled to meet in Cairo, Egypt, to negotiate a long-term ceasefire in the region."

During the period, the two rival countries are scheduled to meet in Cairo, Egypt, to negotiate a long-term ceasefire in the region.

A senior US State Department official told Reuters that the negotiations are likely to commence as early as today depending on the time taken by the Israeli and Palestinian delegations to reach Cairo.

At least 14 Palestinians were killed by Israeli tank fire and an air strike in southern Gaza early today before the ceasefire began, reported AFP citing local officials.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the destruction of Hamas’ terror tunnels will continue regardless of ceasefire.

More than 1,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, are believed to have been killed since Israel started airstrikes and ground incursions in Gaza early last month.

The 24-day Operation Protective Edge also claimed lives of 56 Israeli soldiers and three civilians.

Image: Crowd gathers in front of a home that was destroyed during Israeli air strikes in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza in July. Photo: courtesy of UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0899/El Baba.

Defence Technology