Egypt brokers ceasefire deal
A truce between Israel and Hamas began on Friday at the hour set by Egyptian mediators, and US President Joe Biden pledged to salve the devastation of the worst fighting in years with humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The cease-fire was brokered by Egypt. Two Egyptian delegations will travel to Tel Aviv and the Palestinian territories to observe implementation of the truce, according to AFP news agency.
In addition to Israel and Hamas, the cease-fire also included Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second-most-powerful armed group in Gaza.
In the countdown to the 2am (23:00 GMT Thursday) ceasefire, whose timing Hamas had confirmed but Israel did not, Palestinian rocket salvoes continued and Israel carried out at least one air strike.
Each side said it stood ready to retaliate for any truce violations by the other. Cairo said it would send two delegations to monitor the ceasefire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirmed the “mutual and unconditional” ceasefire after a late-night meeting of the Security Cabinet, saying it had unanimously accepted an Egyptian proposal but that the two sides were still determining exactly when it was to take effect.
A Hamas official told Reuters the ceasefire would be “mutual and simultaneous”.
The US State Department said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken planned to travel to the Middle East “in the coming days”, where he would meet with Israeli, Palestinian, and regional leaders to discuss recovery efforts.
Blinken spoke with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, who “welcomed Secretary Blinken’s planned travel to the region”, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
The announcement came after Blinken spoke twice Thursday with Ashkenazi ahead of implementation of the ceasefire, which was brokered by Egypt and followed mounting international pressure to stem the bloodshed.
Therefore, in addition to Egypt’s brokerage, strong US pressure on Israel played a key factor in reaching the ceasefire deal.
How is the world reacting?
UN Secretary-General António Guterres made a statement to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, a few minutes before the negotiated ceasefire was due to take effect.
“I welcome the ceasefire between Gaza and Israel, after 11 days of deadly hostilities”, he said, extending his deepest condolences to all the victims of the violence, and their loved ones, across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
“I commend Egypt and Qatar for the efforts carried out, in close coordination with the UN, to help restore calm to Gaza and Israel”, the UN chief added, calling on all sides to observe the ceasefire.
Mr. Guterres said it was essential for the wider international community to work with the UN, to develop “an integrated, robust package of support for a swift, sustainable reconstruction and recovery, that supports the Palestinian people and strengthens their institutions.”
According to latest news reports, at least 232 Palestinians, including more than 60 children have been killed since violence erupted across the Gaza-southern Israeli border on Monday. At least 12 were killed in Israel, as Hamas and other extremist groups unleashed indiscriminate rocket fire, sometimes deep into Israeli territory.
Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah El Sisi commented on Egypt’s role in the deal, stating:
“With utter happiness, I have received a phone call from President Biden in which we have exchanged visions around reaching a formula that would calm the current conflict between Israel and Gaza, our vision was in tune about managing the conflict between all parties with diplomacy.”
European Council President Charles Michel also welcomed the deal,
“Welcome announced ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ending the 11-day conflict. Opportunity for peace and security for citizens must be seized.”
Palestinians, many of whom had spent 11 days huddled in fear of Israeli shelling, poured into Gaza’s streets. Mosque loud-speakers feted “the victory of the resistance achieved over the Occupation (Israel) during the ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ battle”.
Will it last?
Despite this widespread joy, there are fears that the ceasefire is only temporary and will not last long, especially if the situation in Jerusalem surrounding the Sheikh Jarrah evictions, and Al Aqsa mosque does not change.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to attend weekly prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque later on Friday, with the potential to reignite conflict. Celebratory protests at the flashpoint holy site could lead to confrontations with Israeli police.
Increasing the fragility of the ceasefire even further, both sides in the fighting hailed the cease-fire as a win.
A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the offensive in Gaza yielded “significant achievements some of which are unprecedented.”
Some right-wing figures in Israel accused Netanyahu of ending the conflict too soon, with the conflict ending inconclusively.
A Hamas official told a rally in Gaza that the cease-fire was a “victory for the Palestinian people.” Khalil al-Hayya added that Israel had failed to destroy the Islamist group’s military infrastructure.
Such narratives will on add heat to the already tense situation, and could mean a very short-lived ceasefire, if a flashpoint leads to escalations.
As German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated:
“Good that there is now a ceasefire,” Maas tweeted, a day after he visited Israel and the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank for talks. “Now we have to deal with the causes, rebuild trust and find a solution to the Middle East conflict,” he said.