Trucks full of goods arriving from Israel depart from the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom cargo crossing, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, August 15, 2018. Adel Hana/AP

Israel-Hamas Cease-fire on Gaza Goes Into Effect

Understandings of cease-fire, mediated by Egypt and UN, are based on the principles that were agreed upon at the end of 2014 Gaza war

The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas went into effect Wednesday, following the approval of the security cabinet ministers.

The ministers discussed Wednesday the details of the agreement, brokered by the United Nations and Egypt, in a special meeting on the situation in Gaza.  

The understandings are based on the principles that were agreed upon by the parties at the end of the 2014 Operation Protective Edge. These include, in the first stage, lifting restrictions at the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing and on the fishing area in Gaza, in addition to rehabilitation of Gaza infrastructure, in return for a cessation of attacks from both sides.

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The agreement was approved in principle by the security cabinet minister on Sunday during a cabinet discussion, though not by vote. The only ones who objected, as publicly announced, were Bennett and Shaked. Lieberman did not object but supported the position of the defense establishment in favor of the agreement. On Wednesday, the agreement entered into force, the details were again presented and the security cabinet received an update on the progress.

The understandings do not include, at this stage, prisoner exchanges, including the remains of IDF soldiers. A political source told reporters that "there will be no real arrangement with Hamas without the return of our sons and citizens home and the promise of long-term quiet."

According to the source, "the current calm is the result of aggressive IDF action that will continue as necessary. The calming was achieved following the understandings advanced by the Egyptians and the UN. In light of this, the Kerem Shalom crossing was renewed and the fishing area was opened. As long as this commitment is maintained, humanitarian issues can be addressed, including the return of our sons and citizens."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed on Wednesday the Israeli decision to reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing to its full operating capacity this morning and to expand the fishing zone off the coast of Gaza. 

In his statement, Guterres said he is "encouraged to see that those concerned have responded to calls to avoid the devastating impact of yet another conflict on the civilian population in and around Gaza."

Guterres concluded his statement by calling on "all parties to support the efforts of UN Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov and Egypt to avoid an escalation and address all humanitarian issues in Gaza," as well as  the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Strip.

Following an escalation in hostilities between Israel and Gaza that began on Wednesday of last week, foreign sources and media reported that Israel and Hamas reached a cease-fire late Thursday, one that was not part of a wider agreement being negotiated between the two parties. Israel, however, denied those reports, yet the calm was maintained until now.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that if the calm on the Gaza border is maintained throughout the night, the Kerem Shalom crossing would open Wednesday morning, and Israel would extend the fishing area back to 9 miles from the shore. Following Wednesday's security cabinet meeting, the border crossing was opened and 700 trucks carrying building supplies, food, textile, animal feed, fuel, gas, hygiene products and more went into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Kerem Shalom is the only crossing for goods into the Gaza Strip. There are two other crossings whose use is limited. The Erez crossing is used for people only. The Rafah crossing, on the border with Egypt, opens from time to time to allow the passage of goods and construction materials.

The IDF shut down the crossing on July 9 over the airborne firebombs being sent into Israel in prior weeks.

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