JERUSALEM: (Monitoring Desk) At 2:00 a.m. on Friday, a long-awaited truce between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Palestinian Gaza Strip, went into effect (2300GMT Thursday). Only celebratory gunfire could be heard on Gaza streets, according to AFP journalists, three hours after Netanyahu’s cabinet approved the ceasefire in Gaza.
Israel had previously declared a truce to put an 11-day military offensive in Gaza to an end. On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office released a statement claiming that his Security Cabinet had officially accepted Egypt’s ceasefire in Gaza request.
The political leaders stressed that “the fact on the ground would decide the campaign’s future,” according to the declaration. The Egyptian-mediated decision came as US pressure mounted on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to call a halt to the attack.
Hamas members could not be reached for comment right away. Since the offensive began on May 10, Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes it claims are aimed at Hamas facilities, including a large tunnel network.
Devastating Israeli air strikes in Gaza’s southern town of Rafah reduced buildings to dust and debris, as an emergency raced across town to assist the injured. According to a diplomatic source, UN Middle East peace negotiator Tor Wennesland was in Qatar for talks with Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political leader.
“Indirect negotiations” with Hamas, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are critical to progressing efforts toward a cease-fire. Of course, Hamas must be included, Merkel said, adding that “without Hamas, there would be no ceasefire.” Merkel also spoke with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on Thursday, and the two agreed on the need for a speedy ceasefire.
We expect to get back to peace in the coming hours, or tomorrow (Friday), a senior Hamas official told AFP, but it depends on the termination of the occupation forces’ violence in Gaza and Jerusalem. But there is nothing conclusive for the time being, the source added, suggesting that Qatar, which hosts Haniyeh and provides financial assistance to Gaza, was at the centre of intense” talks.
According to the Gaza health ministry, Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, soldiers, and another 1,900 civilians, leaving large areas in ruins and expelling some 120,000 people. Israel began to bombard Gaza with airstrikes and artillery fire overnight, aiming to destroy Hamas tunnels and other facilities, according to the military.