Israel and Hamas will enter a “mutual and simultaneous” Gaza truce at 2 A.M. Friday, a Hamas official told Reuters.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the security cabinet has agreed to accept an Egyptian proposal for a “mutual” cease-fire “without any preconditions.”
The statement said the truce will go into effect “at an hour to be agreed upon later.”
A senior Israeli official said he assesses a Gaza truce will go into effect “at 2 A.M. or earlier.”
One of the main reasons Israel is moving toward a cease-fire is the belief that international legitimacy for IDF strikes in Gaza is set to expire. The United States, which officially supports the attacks as well as Israel’s right to self-defense, changed its tone over the past few days, and alongside its public call for a cease-fire had been sending Israel pointed messages calling for an immediate halt to hostilities.
Sources in Jerusalem said that continuing fighting would likely bring sharp international criticism.
At least 232 people were killed and 1,900 were injured in the Gaza Strip during nearly two weeks of fighting. In Israel, 12 people were killed and 342 were injured.
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The Israeli military said that between 7 A.M. and 7 P.M. Thursday more than 300 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, with 299 of them crossing into Israel. Some 90 percent of rockets were intercepted, according to Israel. Another 70 rockets were launched from Gaza toward Israel overnight into Thursday.
Since the escalation between Israel and Hamas began last week, 4,369 rockets were fired at Israel.
A senior source, speaking before the cease-fire was announced said Hamas appears to be exhausted and to have maximized the achievements it wished to gain, which is why it was expected to go along with the cease-fire proposal.
Israel is still preparing for the possibility that Hamas will use the hours before the tacit cease-fire goes into effect to carry out additional attacks in Israel that will give the Islamist movement a “victory photograph.”
Sources in Jerusalem confirmed that the efforts to achieve a cease-fire derived from heavy international pressure on Israel – mainly from the United States, which in the preceding 24 hours sent pointed messages to Israel, mainly under the surface, demanding that combat be halted immediately. The White House said Thursday it viewed the nearing cease-fire with satisfaction, after Israel had attained some important military achievements in this operation.
The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar quoted a senior Hamas source Thursday as saying the cease-fire would take effect Friday and that it would apply to Israel and to all Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip.
A flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at ending hostilities took place Thursday. The foreign ministers of Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia made lightning visits to Israel to demonstrate support for the Jewish state.
“The fact that we see that Hamas is again firing missiles into the south of Israel since we have arrived here in Tel Aviv is for us an indication of how serious the situation is that the people of Israel find themselves in,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on being welcomed by Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sharply criticized Israel Thursday, and called for an immediate halt to the fighting.
He was speaking during a special session called by Niger and Algeria on behalf of Arab member nations.
The UN also announced the allocation of $14 million in immediate humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN and to the United States, Gilad Erdan, spoke with Guterres before of the meeting and told him he was disappointed because the secretary-general was equating a democratic nation to a terror organization in his statement.
Guterres began his remarks by criticizing Israel in any case, stating he was “deeply shocked by the continued air and artillery bombardment” of Gaza. He later condemned Hamas rocket fire on Israel and also described the Strip as “hell on earth” for children.
Erdan had asked Guterres to condemn Hamas fire at Israeli soldiers bringing UN humanitarian aid into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing this week, which Guterres did.
“Access for humanitarian goods is paramount. Attacks by militant groups on areas surrounding crossing points are unacceptable,” Guterres said. “At the same time, Israel has a duty to allow and facilitate rapid and unhindered access for humanitarian aid ... into Gaza,” he said.
Erdan walked out of the special session as Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyadh al-Maliki was speaking. Sources in Israel’s UN delegation said Maliki accused Israel of deliberately slaughtering Palestinian children in their sleep.
In his own speech, Erdan criticized the ambassadors for backing what he called a terror organization that seeks to destroy Israel.