Israel and Hamas agree ceasefire after eight days
A tentative ceasefire came into effect last night after Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egyptian-sponsored plan to end the seven-day Gaza conflict.
According to a text of the agreement, both sides agree to halt all hostilities, with Israel desisting from incursions and targeting of individuals, while all Palestinian factions should cease rocket fire and cross-border attacks.
After the agreement came into force at 9pm local time, a dozen rockets from Gaza landed in Israel, all in open areas, an Israeli police spokesman said. In Gaza the deal prompted street celebrations.
“Allahu akbar, [God is greatest], dear people of Gaza you won,” blared mosque loudspeakers in the enclave as the truce took effect. “You have broken the arrogance of the Jews.”
Precise casualty figures remained unclear last night but some 150 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed since the flare-up of violence began last week.
The truce agreement largely steered clear of wider security issues. On the five-year blockade of the territory – one of the most contentious points in the talks – it provided for an easing of Israeli restrictions on Gaza’s residents but said the procedures for implementing this would be “dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire”.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he was ready to give the ceasefire a chance, but that “more forceful action” might be needed if it failed.Senior Hamas figure Ahmed Bahar said Israel had met “the conditions and demands set by the resistance” and he hailed it as a triumph.
The truce was mediated by Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and his intelligence chief, Mohamed Shehata, after days of intense diplomacy involving US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and regional leaders.
Yesterday, Mrs Clinton twice visited Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem and held talks with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah before travelling to Cairo to announce the deal alongside her Egyptian counterpart. US president Barack Obama also intervened by calling both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Morsi to encourage them to find a solution.
Last night’s agreement emerged despite a bus bombing in Tel Aviv earlier in the day. It was the first such bombing in Israel in six years and revived memories of the second Palestinian intifada, in which some 1,000 Israelis and 5,000 Palestinians were killed.
In Dublin, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore welcomed the ceasefire announcement. He said Israel had the right to protect the safety of its people but criticised its military actions as “disproportionate”. – (Additional reporting by Deaglán de Bréadúin)