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Gaza Cease-fire: Israel, Hamas Agree to Return to 2014 Deal, Source Tells Haaretz

Source: Situation remains fragile, but fuel shipments still entering Gaza ■ Hamas thanks mediators for helping to form deal ■ UN Security Council to hold special session on escalation ■ One killed by rocket in Israel, seven Gazans killed by IDF

People look at the rubble of a building in Gaza City on November 13, 2018, after an Israeli air strike.
AFP

Israel and the Palestinian factions agreed to a cease-fire that would follow the agreement the two sides reached in 2014, a diplomatic source told Haaretz on Tuesday evening after three days of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The situation remains very precarious and can blow up again," the foreign source who is involved in the agreement added.

"What we have seen in the past 48 hours was very dangerous and no efforts should be spared to avoid similar flare-ups. However, and on the bright side of all of this, the fuel shipments, under the UN’s supervision, continued to flow into the Strip unhindered," the source said.

>> Read more: Hamas tries to dictate new rules in Gaza, but it may be misjudging Israel ■ Gaza violence: Just another flare-up on the road to a long-term deal

An Israeli official responded earlier to cease-fire reports, saying that a cease-fire has been reached and that "Israel reserves its freedom to operate."

The official added that "requests by Hamas to form a cease-fire came from four different mediators. Israel responded that developments on the ground will determine [the Israeli reaction]." The four mediators the official mentioned are Egypt, the United Nations, Norway and Switzerland.

The Palestinian factions in Gaza released a joint statement saying that "a cease-fire has been reached and we have responded to Egyptian efforts on this matter." The Palestinian factions also stated that they are "committed to the cease-fire as long as Israel doesn't break it and doesn't attack the Palestinian people."

Hamas, the group ruling the coastal enclave, said it "really appreciates efforts alongside different entities to obtain a cease-fire and we thank and cherish the Egyptian effort and the international effort, as well as the role the Norwegians and Qataris played." 

Hamas also thanked the Palestinian people and stated that it was proud of Palestinians "for standing strong in backing forces of the resistance until victory was had in pushing off Israeli aggression."

The UN Security Council announced that it will convene later Tuesday for a special session following the escalation in hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel's envoy to the UN, Danny Danon, said ahead of the meeting that Israel "will not accept a call for 'both sides to act with restraint.'"

Israelis demonstrate against the cease-fire reached with Hamas, Sderot, southern Israel, November 13, 2018.
Ilan Assayag
Iron Dome missiles intercept rockets fired from Gaza, November 13, 2018.
Ilan Assayag

"There is a side that attacks and fires 400 rockets toward civilians and there is a side that protects its civilians. Every member country in the Security Council ought to ask itself how it would respond after a barrage of missiles is fired at its people," Danon stated. 

The United States on Tuesday condemned rocket and missile attacks from Gaza into Israel and said it stood with Israel as it defends itself. 

"We condemn in the strongest terms the rocket, missile and mortar attacks that are taking place from Gaza into Israel," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at a news briefing. "We call for the sustained halt of those attacks. We stand with Israel as Israel defends itself against these attacks. It is simply unacceptable to target civilians." 

Celebrations in Gaza, demonstrations in Israel

Israelis took the streets of Sderot, one of the main cities in southern Israel to suffer from the rocket threat, to express their dismay following news of the cease-fire. 

One protester told Haaretz: "I'm protesting over the oversight, the disgrace, the silencing. The cease-fire agreement that has just been signed is very, very sad. We're very angry at the government. We expected them to do something to stop terror. But a cease-fire, especially one announced by Hamas, is not what we expected."

Hundreds of protesters gathered at the entrance to Sderot, blocking roads and burning tires. Residents of the city were joined by Israelis from Gaza-border communities. 

Israel Police forces were dispatched to disperse the demonstration.

Minutes after the cease-fire was announced, the Israeli army said that Iron Dome missile defense batteries intercepted over 100 rockets out of the 460 rockets that were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip during the three-day round of hostilities. The Israeli military attacked 160 Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror targets in the Strip, among which were four unique terror assets. 

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman's bureau released a statement following news on the emerging cease-fire in which it denied previous reports that said Lieberman supported a halt to Israeli strikes on Gaza.

"The defense minister's stance is consistent and hasn't chaged. [News of] Lieberman's support of halting attacks are fake," the statement read. Education Minister Naftali Bennett also released a statement denying he supported any kind of cease-fire. 

Associates of the defense minister said that from the moment the latest round of hostilities began, he demanded that Israel take a "tough and resolute action against Hamas." Sources close to Bennett said that he "firmly resisted [a cease-fire] in the clearest way possible."

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin also contested the cease-fire at the cabinet meeting. 

Nonetheless, other sources said that all of the cabinet ministers eventually came to support defense officials' stance that Israel should act to end hostilities. Minister Yoav Galant said in an interview with the Israel Television Company that the dispute in the cabinet meeting was not over whether a cease-fire should be implemented but rather on what future steps Israel ought to take.

Some cabinet ministers claimed after news broke of the cease-fire agreement that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "imprisoned" them in the conference room, alluding to the notion that while they were discussing potential solutions to the escalation, the premier was aware that there were already advances underway to promote a cease-fire.

A ball of fire above the building housing the Hamas-run television station al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip during an Israeli air strike, November 12, 2018.
AFP
Fragments from a rocket fired at southern Israel from Gaza, November 13, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israel's security cabinet convened for six hours and was briefed by IDF officials on the attacks and extensive actions against terror elements in Gaza. 

In Gaza, Clerics in government offices received news of the cease-fire by announcing that they will return to work starting Wednesday morning. Parades celebrating the halt in hostilities started throughout the Strip on Tuesday evening, as part of attempts by Hamas and other Palestinian factions to convey a sense of victory to Gazans.

Meanwhile, Palestinian reports said Israel struck in northern Gaza. The attack reportedly resulted in casualties and Gaza’s Health Ministry said a 29-year-old man identified as Khaled Maaruf was killed.

The head of Hamas' political wing, Ismail Haniyeh, spoke for the first time about the escalation since the flare-up began, saying on Tuesday afternoon that "if Israel stops the airstrikes, we can return to the cease-fire understandings."

A  different Hamas official stated earlier that “as soon as Israel stops its aggression on the Gaza Strip, the forces of the resistance will halt the fire. All mediators must stop Israel.”

Netanyahu spoke on the phone with French President Emmanuel Macron about the ongoing tensions.

Netanyahu thanked Macron for hosting him in Paris for a conference marking the 100th anniversary of World War I's end earlier this week, and apologized for having left the conference early in order to return to Israel due to the hostilities. 

Netanyahu told the French president that Israel was enforcing its right to protect itself from terror elements that are acting to hurt Israeli civilians. The premier also said that the international community ought to continue its efforts to curb Iranian aggression in the region. 

'Completely different'

Israel came under a heavy barrage of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip starting Monday, a day after a flare-up in which an Israeli officer and seven Palestinians were killed. An anti-tank missile launched from Gaza hit a bus in southern Israel Monday afternoon, severely wounding a 19-year-old soldier.

The projectiles fired from the Strip hit Israel in a number of locations. In Asheklon, a 40-year-old man was killed after a house was hit by a rocket late Monday night. Two women who were in the same building at the time of the incident are said to be in critical condition. The fatality is a man from the West Bank Palestinian city of Hebron, not an Israeli citizen as initially suggested by local media.

The victim was found by other civilians buried in the rubble an hour after police and firefighters had already left, in what neighbors described as a "terrible failure" to locate him.

Rescue operations at the building had identified a 60-year-old woman, unconscious with blast wounds and multiple injuries, around 40 minutes after the house was hit, but had altogether missed the other casualties. The other victims were spotted by a man who had come to take pictures of the damage one hour after the hit.

Israel Police said comprehensive searches were conducted by emergency and rescue forces, "sometimes while risking their lives, in dozens of sites where rockets fell in the south, with their primary objective being to save human lives and prevent them being harmed."

The statement emphazised that during the searches, the structure was under the immediate threat of collapse, due to gas canisters catching fire.

In Gaza, seven Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes during the latest round of violence, according to Palestinian sources. The Israel Air Force struck over 100 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets overnight Monday, including an intelligence compound said to be located in the heart of the city next to a school, a mosque and diplomatic facilities.

The complex itself houses a kindergarten and a munitions warehouse. The Israeli army said it is used for intelligence gathering, research and development. Hamas' Public Security offices were also hit, said the spokesperson.

A senior Air Force officer said on Tuesday that the airstrikes Monday overnight were "completely different from anything we've known in the past. These are targets of high-rise buildings in city centers." According to the officer, such targets were only struck twice during the entire campaign of 2014's Operation Protective Edge. "Just tonight, we've hit four" of these targets, he said.

"We've learned how to attack these targets at the heart of residential neighborhoods and obliterate them without killing anyone in the strike. We uphold our values, we're not fighting against civilians," said the officer, adding they were acting to "exact a price from the other side." 

IAF also fired at a Palestinian said to be a member of a group launching rockets in the northern Gaza Strip. An Israeli helicopter also struck "a number of suspects" trying to cross the border fence in the north of the Strip, the spokesperson added.

Palestinians reports claim that a man who was killed during the Israeli strike was 26-year-old Khaled Sultan, a farmer, and not part of a group launching rockets.

Another Palestinian report Tuesday says an Israeli helicopter opened fire on a group of people east of Gaza City, claiming one was killed and several were wounded. The man killed was Mussab Hus, 23, Palestinian reports said.

Hamas' military wing spokesman said Monday that Be'er Sheva and Ashdod would be targeted next if "Israel persisted in its aggression." The Islamic Jihad echoed the statement, saying Gaza factions have the capacity to continue their offensive.

Senior Hamas official Husan Badran said Tuesday that "if Netanyahu is interested in ending this round, he must fire [Defense Minister] Lieberman, who in his foolish conduct caused the escalation."

The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories posted a statement on its Arabic Facebook page, saying: "Hamas and the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip are the ones bringing ruin upon Gazans! The persistent launching of rockets at Israel have grave repercussions in the Gaza Strip. Residents of Gaza, terrorism has repercussions."

Following a situation assessment, the Israeli army eased security restrictions for residents of southern Israel, including school activity within sheltered institutions. People are allowed to leave bomb shelters, but were instructed to remain in their vicinity.

Schools will be closed in most major southern Israeli cities, including Be'er Sheva, Sderot, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat and Ashdod. Students in regional councils Sha'ar Hanegev, Eshkol, Merchavim and Sedot Hanegev will also not attend school.

The Israeli army reinforced Armored Corps and Infantry units near the Strip, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said.

Reuters contributed to this report.