Israel has approved a ceasefire with the Palestinian militant group, Hamas starting as soon as Friday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
The decision follows the worst hostilities between the two sides in nearly seven years, including thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli cities and heavy airstrikes in Gaza Strip that have reportedly led to the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians.
In a unanimous vote, Netanyahu’s security cabinet approved a bilateral, unconditional ceasefire deal brokered by Egypt late Thursday evening, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
The details and timing of the ceasefire are unclear: Some Israeli TV stations say it could begin at 2 a.m. Israeli time on Friday (or 7 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday), but other news outlets say the start time is still subject to discussions with Hamas and Egypt or an one hour after the decision was announced.
Meanwhile, Hamas officials have told Lebanese media outlets and a Hamas-run TV station they expect a ceasefire to hold by Friday.
Fighting has appeared to continue despite the apparent ceasefire agreement. Late Thursday evening, rocket sirens still blared in parts of southern Israel, according to Israeli Defense Forces, and Israel kept striking targets in Gaza, according to Al Jazeera.
Israeli’s security cabinet stated;
The Security Cabinet convened this evening. And accepted unanimously the recommendation of all security elements — the Chief of Staff, the head of the Shin Bet, the Head of the Mossad, and the head of the National Security Council — to accept the Egyptian initiative for a mutual unconditional ceasefire that will go into effect at an hour to be agreed upon later.
The official statement makes clear that Israel Defense Forces will be instructed to re-start its campaign against militant groups in Gaza if militant groups are deemed to be failing to keep their side of the agreement.
The statement added;
The political leadership emphasizes that the reality on the ground will determine any decision to resume the military campaign.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have carried out a devastating aerial bombardment of Gaza over the past 11 days, targeting Hamas‘ vast tunnel network and other infrastructure.
Israeli strikes have killed at least 230 people in Gaza, including 65 children, according to Hamas-run health ministry there. Some 72,000 Gazans have been displaced, UNICEF said Wednesday.
Palestinian militants have fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel, according to IDF. The longest lull in rocket fire from Gaza — of more than eight hours — took place overnight into Thursday, while Israeli military action continued.
Twelve people have been killed in Israel — 10 Israeli citizens and two foreign workers — as a result of Palestinian militant fire, including two children, according to IDF and Israel’s emergency service.
The truce comes after US President Joe Biden dialed up his administration’s messaging on Israel Wednesday, in his fourth call with Netanyahu.
Biden faced pressure to do more to intervene in the conflict, however Netanyahu said Israel’s military operation would continue until its “objective is achieved.”
Hostilities between Israel and Hamas followed a period of several weeks of tension in Jerusalem, where a group of Palestinian families faced eviction from their homes in East Jerusalem in favor of Jewish nationalists.
In addition, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended last week, there were a series of incidents which Palestinians saw as highly provocative, including the closing of a popular meeting place near the Old City, and the entrance of Israeli police into Al Aqsa mosque on a number of occasions.
There were regular clashes in and around the mosque compound during which police fired stun grenades and rubber coated bullets while Palestinians threw stones.
Hundreds of Palestinians and some Israeli police officers were injured in the unrest that has lasted for 11 days, the longest and most serious escalation of violence between the parties since 2014.
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