Egypt announced on Wednesday that a ceasefire had been reached to end the conflict between Hamas and Israel, effective as of 9:00 P.M. local time. During the last week, hundreds of rockets were fired into southern Israel, killing five Israelis, while IDF strikes in Gaza killed more than 140 Palestinians.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr made the announcement in a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday evening from Cairo. "Egypt has made great efforts since the start of the latest escalation in the Gaza Strip," Amr said. "These efforts and contacts have resulted in understandings to cease fire and restore calm and halt the bloodshed that the last period has seen," he added.
"Egypt calls on all to monitor the implementation of what has been agreed under Egypt's sponsorship and to guarantee the commitment of all the parties to what has been agreed," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "The people of this region deserve to live without fear. There is no alternative for comprehensive and just peace."
At a press conference in Jerusalem following the cease-fire announcement, Netanyahu thanked the security establishment and enumerated Israel's position on the cease-fire. "Israel began an operation eight days ago in response to the increasingly frequent terror attacks from Gaza. I said that there would be a forceful response at the time of our choosing and that we would exact a heavy price," he said.
"They assumed we would avoid severe action, but they were wrong. We killed senior commanders and destroyed thousands of rockets and command and control centers." Netanyahu also made note: "I know there are citizens expecting a more intensive military operation, and it is very likely that one will be required, but right now, the right thing for the State of Israel is to take advantage of the opportunity for a protracted cease-fire."
Netanyahu, who spoke to Obama before the cease-fire went into effect, told the president that Israel wants to give the cease-fire a chance but that "more forceful action" might be needed if it failed," according to a statement from his office.
Obama in turn reiterated his country's commitment to Israel's security and pledged to seek funds for a joint missile defense program in an effort to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.
Senior Hamas lawmaker Ahmed Bahar said Israel had "submitted to the conditions and demands set by the resistance" and he hailed the outcome as a triumph.
"Resistance achieved a historical victory against the occupation and laid the foundation for the battle of liberation of the full land and sacred sites," Bahar, deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament, said in a statement from his office.
According to a text of the agreement, both sides should halt all hostilities, with Israel desisting from incursions and targeting of individuals, while all Palestinian factions should cease rocket fire and cross-border attacks.
The deal also provides for easing Israeli restrictions on Gaza's residents, including opening the crossings, facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods. The text said procedures for implementing this would be "dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now