Israel agrees ceasefire in conflict with Gaza militants

Israel and Hamas Agree to Cease-Fire in Gaza Conflict

(New York Times) — Israel and Hamas have agreed to a cease-fire to take effect on Friday morning, after more than 10 days of fighting, officials on both sides said on Thursday.

A senior Hamas official based in Qatar confirmed in a telephone interview that the group had agreed to a cease-fire mediated by Egypt, beginning at 2 a.m. on Friday.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced that his security cabinet had voted to accept the Egyptian truce proposal, but cautioned “that the reality on the ground will determine the continuation of the campaign.”

Since May 10, Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, has fired rockets into Israel, and Israel has bombed targets in Gaza. Sirens sounded in Israeli towns bordering the Gaza Strip in the minutes after the Israeli announcement, indicating that militants were continuing to fire rockets.

There has been intensive mediation between Hamas and Israel, which do not talk to each other directly, by several nations amid growing international pressure to stop the fighting, and both sides have said this week that they were open to a cease-fire.

The Israeli aerial and artillery campaign has killed more than 230 people in Gaza, many of them civilians, and badly damaged the impoverished territory’s infrastructure, including the fresh water and sewer systems, the electrical grid, hospitals, schools and roads. The primary target has been Hamas’s extensive network of tunnels for moving fighters and munitions, and Israel has also sought to kill Hamas leaders and fighters.

More than 4,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since May 10, killing 12 people, mostly civilians.

Mr. Netanyahu met on Thursday with his security cabinet to review how far the military had gone in damaging Hamas, including destroying its network of tunnels and its arsenal of rockets and launchers. He and other Israeli officials had insisted that the bombardment of Gaza would continue as long as it took to safeguard Israeli security.

Diplomats from Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations have mediated between the two sides. Hamas has never recognized Israel’s existence, and Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

The cease-fire announcement also followed behind-the-scenes pressure from the Biden administration. The United States has no contact with Hamas, which it and the European Union also consider a terrorist group, but the administration has nevertheless played an important role in efforts to end the conflict.

It urged Mr. Netanyahu to agree to a cease-fire before international support for Israel evaporated, and it sent an envoy, Hady Amr, to meet in person with Israeli and Palestinian politicians this week. In a phone conversation on Wednesday, President Biden told Mr. Netanyahu that he “expected a significant de-escalation” in hostilities soon.

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