Home/ News / World/  Ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to end 11-day war in Gaza begins

A highly anticipated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas officially came into force on Friday at 2 am (2300 GMT Thursday).

The truce was mediated by Egypt while US President Joe Biden pledged to salve the devastation of the worst fighting in years with humanitarian aid for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

In the countdown to the ceasefire, whose timing Hamas had confirmed but Israel did not, Palestinian rocket salvo continued and Israel carried out at least one airstrike.

Each side said it stood ready to retaliate for any truce violations by the other. Meanwhile, Cairo said it would send two delegations to monitor the ceasefire.

Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, scheduled public celebrations for what it deemed a victory over a militarily and economically stronger foe.

In Israel, relief was bittersweet.

"It's good that the conflict will end, but unfortunately I don't feel like we have much time before the next escalation," Eiv Izyaev, a 30-year-old software engineer, said in Tel Aviv.

Since the fighting began on 10 May, health officials in Gaza said 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, had been killed and more than 1,900 wounded in aerial bombardments. Israel said it had killed at least 160 combatants in Gaza.

Authorities put the death toll in Israel at 12, with hundreds of people treated for injuries in rocket attacks that caused panic and sent people rushing into shelters.

Hamas is deemed a terrorist group in the West and by Israel, which it refuses to recognise.

The violence was triggered by Palestinian anger at what they assailed as Israeli curbs on their rights in Jerusalem, including during police confrontations with protesters at Al-Aqsa mosque.

Hamas previously demanded that any halt to the Gaza fighting be accompanied by Israeli drawdowns in Jerusalem. An Israeli official told Reuters there was no such condition in the truce.

US response

Biden said at the White House he welcomed a ceasefire announced by Israel and Hamas as a "genuine opportunity" for peace after 11 days of bombing and rocket strikes.

"I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress and I'm committed to working toward it," Biden said.

He said aid would be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority - run by Hamas' rival, President Mahmoud Abbas, and based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank - "in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal".

The US president, who has come under criticism from many within his own Democratic party for not pushing US ally Israel more publicly to call a ceasefire, touted his administration's "quiet, relentless diplomacy."

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in a tweet early on Friday thanked Biden for his role in making the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire in Gaza succeed.

Sisi said he and President Biden both saw the urgency of managing the conflict between all parties with diplomacy.

Amid growing global alarm, Biden had earlier urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek de-escalation, while Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations sought to mediate.

In a televised address on Thursday, Biden extended condolences to bereaved Israelis and Palestinians and said Washington would work with the United Nations "and other international stakeholders to provide rapid humanitarian assistance" for Gaza and its reconstruction.

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Updated: 21 May 2021, 05:53 AM IST
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