Israeli forces allowed a limited three-hour cease-fire today to permit the besieged people of Gaza to get food, water and medical care as diplomatic efforts to hammer out a more durable truce heated up.
Israel's guns went quiet starting at 1 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET) around Gaza City, the largest population center. Hamas also honored the temporary truce.
Local television showed cars streaming into Gaza City intersections and people filling the previously empty streets. For the first time in days, the city's skyline was free of smoke and explosions.
The respite from gunfire resumed almost on schedule as Israeli forces resumed their attack shortly after 4 p.m. (9 a.m. ET) and a pair of Hamas rockets hit the Israeli town of Be'er-Sheva.
As the two sides went back to fighting, intense diplomatic efforts to halt the war proceeded in high level meetings around the world.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday she urged Israel to seriously consider an Egyptian cease-fire plan for Gaza. The Egyptian proposal, made in conjunction with France, calls for an end for Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, the opening of crossings in Gaza and an end to the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.
Rice said that the United States is supporting the initiative.
Sources in Jerusalem say Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has indicated his willingness to send a delegation to Cairo, Egypt, in the next few days to discuss the terms of a possible deal. Those discussions would be with Egyptian officials who, it is presumed, would mediate with Hamas representatives who have arrived in Cairo from Syria several days ago.
A critical part of any deal appears to be the posting of foreign troops or engineers on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza to ensure that Hamas does not reconstruct its network of tunnels necessary to rearm itself.
Israel said it plans to enforce a second short-term truce Friday. Earlier today, the Israelis said they would allow an additional 80 trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza today along with 120,000 gallons of fuel.
A United Nations representative in Gaza was keen to stress that these short term truces are not enough. About 750,000 people in Gaza are dependent on the U.N. for food. The U.N. says it needs at least a month-long cease-fire to restore Gaza's food supply.
"The situation in Gaza is tragic. People need a full cease fire in order to save what can be saved. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed." UNRWA spokesperson, Adnan Abu Hasna, told ABC News.
The supplies shipped in today are desperately needed. Hospitals are at a breaking point, according to medical workers. "People are dying now because of the lack of supplies," Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian volunteering in Gaza's main hospital, told the BBC Stockpiles of food are running low, as is fuel. Residents, deprived of power and water for days, occasionally brave the deserted streets to pick up essentials, but most remain barricaded at home.
"The people they are very sad. They are pessimistic because they believe these days that all places in Gaza are not safe at all," ABC News producer Sami Zyara reported from the besieged city.
Any industries that were operational, working off saved fuel, are on their last legs, Zyara reported, saying, "Most of them told us in a couple of days they will shut down because the store of the fuel is finished."