A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas came into effect on Friday, bringing an end to 11 days of violence that has left more than 240 people dead, reported BBC. Both sides have claimed victory in the conflict.
The Israeli Political Security Cabinet said it has “unanimously accepted the recommendation” for a ceasefire. “The political echelon emphasises that the reality on the ground will determine the continuation of the campaign,” it said.
In Israel, Defence Minister Benny Gantz tweeted that the offence on Gaza has led to “unprecedented military gains”.
After weeks-long tension, the fighting began on May 10 after the Israeli police stormed into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam. The police fired rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at worshipers during Ramadan.
In retaliation, Hamas set a 10.30 pm IST deadline for Israeli forces to be withdrawn from Al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah. Soon after, Hamas fired rockets from Gaza towards Jerusalem. This triggered airstrikes from Israel.
At least 232 people, including more than 100 women and children, have been killed in Gaza, according to its Hamas-controlled health ministry. Israel has said there are at least 150 militants among the dead in Gaza. Hamas does not give casualty figures for fighters.
In Israel, 12 people, including two children, have been killed, its medical service said. Israel said that around 4,000 rockets have been fired towards its territory.
The international community had been pressuring both sides to bring an end to the violence. On Wednesday, United States President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he expects a “significant reduction on the path of a ceasefire”.
Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have played leading roles in mediating the ceasefire talks. The truce was finally brokered by Egypt, which will send two officials to monitor the ceasefire.
Soon after the ceasefire started, many Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate. Loudspeakers from mosques announced “the victory of the resistance achieved over the occupation during the “Sword of Jerusalem” battle”.
However, Basem Naim, a member of the Hamas Council on International Relations, told BBC he was sceptical about the truce lasting. “Without justice for Palestinians, without stopping the Israeli aggression and Israeli atrocities against our people in Jerusalem, the ceasefire will continue to be fragile,” he said.
Biden commends Israeli PM, says US will provide assistance to Gaza
After the truce was announced, Biden said he commended Netanyahu over a phone call. “The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent victims in Israel,” he said.
The US president said that Netanyahu shared his appreciation for the Iron Dome, Israel’s US-backed defence system, “which our nations developed together and which has saved the lives of countless Israeli citizens – both Arab and Jew”.
Biden said that the US remains committed to working with the United Nations in providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza and in reconstruction efforts in the enclave. He added that this would be done “in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas”.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Israeli and Palestinian leaders had a responsibility beyond restoring calm to address the root causes of the conflict, reported Reuters. “Gaza is an integral part of the future Palestinian state and no effort should be spared to bring about real national reconciliation that ends the division,” he said.
The current streak of violence is among the worst hostilities between Israel and Palestine since 2014.
At the heart of the conflict is an Israeli Supreme Court hearing, which was due on May 10, in a long-running legal case about whether several Palestinian families would be evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood near Damascus Gate that was given to Israeli settlers.
As the court hearing neared, Palestinians and Left-wing Israelis began holding larger demonstrations, saying more evictions could cause a domino effect throughout the overwhelmingly Palestinian neighbourhood.
The renewed tensions due to the case in the Supreme Court, was an extension of the long-standing conflict as Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, sees all of the city as its Capital, while Palestinians want the eastern section as a capital of a future state. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is largely unrecognised internationally.
The neighbourhood is also home to Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, as well as the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam.