Israel agrees ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza to end 11-day conflict
Israel and Hamas announced a cease-fire Thursday (Friday morning NZT), ending a bruising 11-day war that caused widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip and brought life in much of Israel to a standstill.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal after a late-night meeting of his Security Cabinet. Hamas quickly followed suit and said it would honour the deal.
Egypt's state-run MENA news agency said the truce would take effect at 2am, roughly three hours after the announcement.
In a statement, Netanyahu's office said the Security Cabinet unanimously approved the proposal after recommendations from the military chief of staff and other top defence officials. The statement boasted of “significant achievements in the operation, some of which are unprecedented” and included a veiled threat against Hamas.
Black smoke billows from fire following Israeli strikes on Gaza City
Thick black smoke billows from a fire following an Israeli strike on an industrial zone in Gaza City. Diplomatic efforts gathered pace for a ceasefire on the 11th day of deadly violence between Israel and armed Palestinian groups.
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“The political leaders emphasised that the reality on the ground will determine the future of the campaign,'' the statement said.
Taher Nounou, a Hamas official, confirmed the deal. “The Palestinian resistance will commit itself to this deal as long as the occupation is committed,'' he said.
An official from the Palestinian militant Hamas group says Israel’s declaration of a cease-fire represents a defeat for Netanyahu and “a victory to the Palestinian people.”
The agreement would close the heaviest round of fighting between the bitter enemies since a 50-day war in 2014, and once again there was no clear winner. Israel inflicted heavy damage on Hamas but was unable to prevent the rocket fire that has disrupted life for millions of Israelis for more than a decade.
Hamas officials have said that they have been contacted by officials from Russia, Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations to reach a truce with Israel. He added that once Hamas hears back from the mediators, its leadership will hold discussions and will make an announcement after that.
The decision came after heavy US pressure to halt the offensive.
The fighting began May 10, when Hamas militants in Gaza fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site that is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. Heavy-handed police tactics at the compound and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers had inflamed tensions.
Israel launched hundreds of air strikes during the operation, targeting what it said was Hamas' military infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network. Hamas and other militant groups embedded in residential areas fired over 4000 rockets at Israeli cities, with hundreds falling short and most of the rest intercepted.
At least 230 Palestinians were killed, including 65 children and 39 women, with 1710 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians.
Hamas and the militant group Islamic Jihad said at least 20 of their fighters were killed, while Israel said the number was at least 130. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes, many of them seeking shelter in crowded UN schools at a time of a raging coronavirus outbreak.
Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier, were also killed.
Since the fighting began, Gaza's infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated.
Medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are running low in the territory, on which Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized power in 2007.
Israel considers Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks its destruction, to be a terrorist group and Hamas' government is not internationally recognised.
Israeli bombing has damaged over 50 schools across the territory, according to advocacy group Save the Children, completely destroying at least six. While repairs are done, education will be disrupted for nearly 42,000 children.
Israeli attacks have also damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organisation said. Nearly half of all essential drugs have run out.
Israel unleashes a wave of strikes in Gaza
Earlier Thursday, Israel unleashed a wave of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip, killing at least one Palestinian and wounding several others.
The strikes came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back against US pressure to wind down the offensive against Gaza's militant Hamas rulers, who have fired thousands of rockets at Israel.
Explosions shook Gaza City and orange flares lit up the night sky, with airstrikes also reported in the central town of Deir al-Balah and the southern town of Khan Younis. As the sun rose, residents surveyed the rubble from at least five family homes destroyed in Khan Younis. There were also heavy airstrikes on al-Saftawi Street, a commercial thoroughfare in Gaza City.
The Israeli military said it struck at least four homes of Hamas commanders, targeting “military infrastructure,” as well as a weapons storage unit at the home of a Hamas fighter in Gaza City.
An Israeli airstrike smashed into the Khawaldi family’s two-story house in Khan Younis, destroying it. The 11 residents, who were sleeping in a separate area out of fear, were all wounded and hospitalised, said Shaker al-Khozondar, a neighbour.
Shrapnel hit his family home next door, killing Hoda al-Khozondar, his aunt, and wounding her daughter and two cousins, he said. Weam Fares, a spokesman for a nearby hospital, confirmed her death and said at least 10 people were wounded in strikes overnight.
Netanyahu had pushed back against calls from the Biden administration to wrap up the operation that has left hundreds dead. It marks the first public rift between the two close allies since the fighting began last week and could complicate international efforts to reach a ceasefire. His pushback also poses a difficult early test of the US-Israel relationship.
After visiting military headquarters, Netanyahu said Wednesday he appreciated “the support of the American president,” but that Israel would push ahead to return “calm and security” to its citizens. He said he was “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met”.
US President Joe Biden had earlier told Netanyahu that he expected “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” the White House said.
Biden had previously avoided pressing Israel more directly and publicly for a ceasefire with Gaza’s Hamas militant rulers. But pressure has been building for Biden to intervene more forcefully as other diplomatic efforts gather strength.
Egyptian negotiators have also been working to halt the fighting, and an Egyptian diplomat said top officials were waiting for Israel’s response to a ceasefire offer. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official, told the Lebanese Mayadeen TV that he expected a ceasefire in a day or two.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the foreign ministers of Slovakia and the Czech Republic would join him after being invited “to express their solidarity and support” for Israel.
The current round of fighting between Israel and Hamas began May 10, when the militant group fired long-range rockets towards Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims. Heavy-handed police tactics at the compound and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers had inflamed tensions.
Since then, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says have targeted Hamas’ infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network it refers to as the “Metro.” Hamas and other militant groups embedded in residential areas have fired over 4000 rockets at Israeli cities, with hundreds falling short and most of the rest intercepted or landing in open areas.
At least 227 Palestinians have been killed, including 64 children and 38 women, with 1620 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes.
Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier, have been killed.
Since the fighting began, Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated. Medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are running low in the territory, on which Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized power in 2007.
Israeli attacks have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organisation said. Nearly half of all essential drugs have run out.
The fighting, the worst since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, has ignited protests around the world.