A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas-led militants in Gaza has finally come into force after eleven days of intense fighting which left 232 Palestinians and twelve Israelis dead.
The truce came into effect at 02:00AM local time on Friday with airstrikes by Israel and Palestinian rocket-fire falling silent for the first time since May 10.
Hours before the fighting halted, Israel announced that it had accepted an Egyptian initiative for a mutual cease-fire without preconditions. Shortly afterwards, Gaza’s main Palestinian groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, confirmed the truce.
Amid the diplomatic frenzy aimed at stopping the eleven days of tit-for-tat attacks, Egyptian Television announced that President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi was sending two separate delegations to Israel and the Palestinian territory to monitor the cease-fire and “work out the fine print”.
Reacting to Thursday’s Egyptian-brokered cease-fire agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that the offensive had significantly degraded the capabilities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
US President Joe Biden welcomed the cease-fire, saying it presented “an opportunity for progress” in the Middle East.
Mr. Biden, whose administration was critical to Israel’s acceptance of the truce, said he had spoken to Mr. Netanyahu and had commended him for bringing hostilities to an end. Speaking at a news conference in Washington late Thursday night, he also thanked Egypt for brokering the cease-fire.
“I extend my sincere gratitude to President al-Sissi and the senior Egyptian officials who played such a critical role in this diplomacy,” Mr. Biden said. “I also appreciate the contributions of other parties in the region, who’ve been engaged in working towards the end of hostilities,” he added.
Analysts say although the two sides have agreed to halt the military exchanges of the past eleven days, the fundamental underlying issues between Israel and the Palestinians remain unresolved. They say it is only a matter of time before the two enemies go at each other again, as they did in the conflicts of 2009, 2012 and 2014.