CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Australia's prime minister on Friday welcomed a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as "a marvelous humanitarian thing."
Prime Minister Tony Abbott's conservative government is a staunch ally of Israel, and angered Arab and Islamic countries in June by changing its description of East Jerusalem from "occupied" to "disputed."
He said Australia had been working at the United Nations and elsewhere for an immediate ceasefire.
"Thank God that's what there is," Abbott told reporters several hours before the ceasefire was to take effect. "That will be a marvelous humanitarian thing."
"I deplore the indiscriminate rain of missiles from Gaza on to Israel; I deplore any actions which result in civilian deaths, and obviously we've seen far too much of that over the last few weeks," he said.
Israel and Hamas have agreed to a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza for 72 hours, although Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned that the lull in violence did not guarantee an end to the conflict.
Israeli and Palestinian delegations were expected to travel immediately to Cairo for talks with the Egyptian government aimed at reaching an end to the conflict, now more than three weeks old.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.