Israeli and Hamas officials confirmed on Thursday that a ceasefire had been agreed for Gaza after 10 days of fighting, with the Hamas militant group sending hundreds of missiles to Israel and Israel bombarding the enclave with air strikes. Nearly 250 people died in the worst hostilities between the two sides in years.
Israel and Hamas will stop firing across the Gaza Strip on Friday from 2 a.m. local time (Thursday 11 p.m. GMT), an official from the Palestinian Islamist faction said, potentially ending the fiercest fighting in decades.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office affirmed the “mutual and unconditional” ceasefire after a late-evening meeting of the Security Cabinet, saying it had unanimously accepted an Egyptian proposal, but that the two sides are still deciding precisely. were when it would take effect.
A Hamas official told Reuters the ceasefire would be “mutual and simultaneous”.
Within minutes of the announcements, the parties again exchanged fire in the countdown to the ceasefire. Sirens warned of incoming missiles in Israeli border communities, and a Reuters reporter heard an air strike in Gaza.
Gaza ceasefire: ‘Israeli security cabinet accepted military recommendations’
Diplomatic efforts had intensified on Thursday in hopes of securing a ceasefire.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed earlier in the day that Tor Wennesland, UN envoy to the Middle East, was in Qatar. US President Joe Biden also discussed Gaza with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday, with press secretary Jen Psaki saying Washington’s “ strategic approach ” “ continued to communicate directly, remain closely intertwined with the Israelis, with partners. on the ground, to do everything we can to end the conflict ”. She added that the US “had more than 80 engagements with senior leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and across the region.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas previously expressed Germany’s “solidarity” with Israel near Tel Aviv, but also called for an end to the fighting. “Israel has the right to defend itself against this massive and unacceptable attack,” Maas said. “The number of victims is increasing every day and that is of great concern to us.”
Since the fighting began on May 10, health officials in Gaza say more than 230 Palestinians, including 65 children and 39 women, have been killed and more than 1,900 injured in aerial bombardments. Israel says it killed at least 160 fighters in Gaza.
Authorities estimate the death toll in Israel at 12, with hundreds of people being treated for injuries in rocket attacks that caused panic and sent people to shelters.
Israel said some 4,000 missiles were fired from Gaza, some falling short and others shot down by the Iron Dome air defenses.
Citizens on both sides are exhausted with fear and grief, the International Committee of the Red Cross said. “The people of Gaza and Israel urgently need a respite from the non-stop hostilities,” said Fabrizio Carboni, regional director for the Middle East.
An international peace process aimed at creating a Palestinian state free from Israeli occupation and guaranteeing Israel’s security has been frozen since 2014.
Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the West, was not part of the mainstream Palestine Liberation Organization with Israel, leading to interim peace agreements in the 1990s and the establishment of limited Palestinian self-government in the occupied West Bank.
( Jowhar with REUTERS and AFP)