Israel and Hamas declared a truce on Thursday, bringing an end to an 11-day war that left the Gaza Strip in ruins and brought most of Israel to a halt.
Israeli airstrikes on the heavily populated enclave killed 232 Palestinians, destroyed tens of thousands of houses, and knocked out vital infrastructure. In Israel, the Gaza rocket attacks killed 12 people and injured hundreds more.
The new round of action, like the three previous wars between the bitter rivals, ended in a draw. Israel claimed to have inflicted heavy damage on Hamas, but the Islamic militant group’s nonstop rocket barrages continued. Almost immediately, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was slammed by his hard-line right-wing base for ending the operation too soon.
The triumph of the resistance over the Occupation (Israel) was lauded by mosque loudspeakers. At dawn, cars driving around Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem flew Palestinian flags and honked horns, recalling scenes in Gaza.
Palestinian missile salvos began throughout the countdown to the 2 a.m. (2300 GMT Thursday) cease-fire, and Israel carried out at least one air attack.
The cease-fire will begin at 2 a.m., according to Egypt’s state-run MENA news agency, approximately three hours after the announcement.
Hamas, an Islamic terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel, has declared victory. However, it now faces the difficult task of rebuilding in a region still beset by poverty, severe unemployment, and a raging coronavirus outbreak.
Mr. Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the plan was unanimously accepted by the Security Cabinet following recommendations from the military chief of staff and other top defense officials. The statement spoke of “major operational successes, some of which are unprecedented,” and contained a veiled warning against Hamas.
“The political leaders emphasized that the reality on the ground will determine the future of the campaign,” the statement said.
Taher Nounou, a Hamas official, confirmed the deal. “The Palestinian resistance will commit itself to this deal as long as the occupation is committed,” he said.
On May 10, Hamas militants in Gaza launched long-range rockets at Jerusalem, igniting the conflict. Days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound followed the barrage. Tensions were heightened by heavy-handed police tactics at the compound, which was built on a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews, as well as the threat of eviction of thousands of Palestinians by Jewish settlers.
Meanwhile, Abdelatif al-Qanou, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, called Israel’s announcement a “declaration of defeat.” Despite this, the party stated that it would uphold the agreement, which was set to take effect at 2 a.m.
Israel’s announcement of a cease-fire was a failure for Netanyahu, according to Ali Barakeh, an official with Islamic Jihad, a smaller faction that fought alongside Hamas.