Israel’s government announced that they have agreed to accept a “mutual and unconditional” bilateral ceasefire with Hamas Thursday, ending the nearly two weeks of intense fighting in the Gaza Strip.
In a statement announcing the ceasefire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet said the Israeli government “unanimously accepted… to accept the Egyptian initiative for a bilateral ceasefire, which will take effect at a later date.” However, they cautioned that “the reality on the ground will determine the continuation of the campaign.”
Egypt, which played a heavy hand in brokering the ceasefire between the two parties, announced that a security delegation would travel to Gaza and Israel to monitor and help stabilize the ceasefire. Before the ceasefire was announced, President Biden held his first phone call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, with the two leaders, according to the White House readout discussing “efforts to achieve a ceasefire” to finally “bring an end to the current hostilities in Israel and Gaza.”
The Egyptian-brokered calls for a “mutual and unconditional ceasefire” with Egypt planning to send two delegations of security official — one to Tel Aviv and another to the Palestinian territories, to monitor the ceasefire implementation and secure agreement as well as other measures to help maintain stability.
Hamas leader Osama Hamdan has also backed the ceasefire, revealing the end of the fighting would begin at 2 am local time (7 pm ET).
“We obtained guarantees from the mediators that the aggression on Gaza will stop,” Hamdan told Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV. “We won and created a new equation with Israel.”
Taher al-Nounou, Hamas political bureau media person, said, “We were informed by our brothers in Egypt that an agreement had been reached for a mutual and simultaneous ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, starting at 2 am on Friday, May 21, 2021. And that the Palestinian resistance will abide by this agreement as long as the occupation is committed.”
The violence erupted on May 10 after Israeli police raided the al-Aqsa Mosque, where thousands of Palestinian Muslims held evening prayers. Following the raid that Friday night, Hamas began firing rockets on Israel with over 4,340 rockets at Israeli cities. Israeli Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted an estimated 90 percent of the nearly 4,000 Gaza rockets. Still, those that have broken being intercepted have inflicted hundreds of Israeli injured, damaged buildings, and caused many to flee into underground bomb shelters.
Netanyahu vowed to press on to inflict maximum damage on Hamas after Biden singlehandedly avoided intervening more forcefully, amid pressure from Democrats in Congress demanding he does so to end the conflict. At first, Biden defended Israeli as “defending themselves” from the mounting Hamas airstrikes on Gaza, but on Monday, he began to urge Netanyahu to pursue a ceasefire, which Republicans denounced as a break with Israel.
On Wednesday, Biden urged for a “significant de-escalation” in his fourth call to the Israeli Prime Minister in days, with Netanyahu publicly rebuffed. The Israeli leader in a statement released after Biden offered his strongest demand on the Jewish State since the conflict began said, “I am determined to continue this operation until its goal is achieved: to bring the quiet and security back to you, the citizens of Israel.”
In a broadcast address from the White House Thursday afternoon following the ceasefire announcement, Biden lauded Egyptian officials for meditating in brokering a ceasefire and noting that he had spoken with Netanyahu over the course of the 11-day war at least six times.
“I commend him for the decision to bring the current hostilities to a close in less than 11 days,” Biden said from Blue Room in the White House, vowing to provide international resources to rebuild Gaza. “We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority — not Hamas, the Authority — in a manner that does not permit Hamas to restock its arsenal.”
The brutal conflict has caused over 230 Palestinians killed, including 65 children and 39 women, with 1,710 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. In Isreal, only 12 people were killed, including two children and one IDF soldier. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency says tens of thousands of Palestinians have been displaced from their homes.