Palestinian enclave blared “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great,” and militants fired into the air in celebration as a 2 a.m. truce brokered by Egypt went into effect, putting an end to devastating Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire that had pounded the territory relentlessly, killing at least 232 people, many of them civilians. Footage broadcast by Arab networks including Al-Jazeera showed large gatherings of people chanting, honking horns and launching fireworks.
President Biden says Israel and the Hamas group have agreed to a cease-fire.
It was the fourth major conflict between the sides since Hamas wrested control of Gaza in 2007 from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and the most damaging. Efforts to end the hostilities intensified after the U.S. raised pressure on Israel on Wednesday to dial back its onslaught. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who had sent an envoy to the region, said he would travel to the Middle East in the coming days to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
The truce alone will do nothing to address the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making future cycles of violence likely.
Peacemaking between Israel and the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority broke down seven years ago, and Hamas and some other groups say armed resistance is required to win back land and rights. Israel, along with Egypt, has blockaded Gaza since Hamas seized control there, confining more than 2 million people to the tiny sliver of land.
While the Biden administration has underlined traditional U.S. support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it has indicated that it doesn’t plan to invest heavily in trying to resolve the conflict. And the wholehearted embrace of Israel by former President Donald Trump has left Palestinians wary of U.S. mediation.
President Joe Biden praised the accord in an address from the White House Thursday, while reiterating his earlier support for Israel’s right to defend itself. He also vowed to help replenish the Iron Dome missile defense system Israel deployed to stop Hamas’s rocket attacks and said the U.S. would remain engaged in diplomatic outreach to prevent more conflict.
”I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Biden said. “My administration will continue our quiet relentless diplomacy toward that end.”
Celebrations of the truce also erupted in the West Bank, and in a statement welcoming the halt in fighting, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said his government would submit Israeli “crimes committed against children and women” to the International Criminal Court.
The court has already launched an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes against the Palestinians, put into motion after their 2014 war. Israel has said it won’t cooperate with the probe and has challenged the court’s authority to open it.
The latest hostilities erupted after Hamas launched rocket fire toward Jerusalem following weeks of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the city, which lies at the heart of conflicting sovereignty claims. As fighting escalated, it spilled over into deadly violence inside Israel between Arab and Jewish citizens, the fiercest communcal fighting in decades.
Although the confrontations were quelled by a heavy security presence, underlying Arab grievances over discrimination and Jewish mistrust of their allegiance still fester and will pose a challenge to Israel going forward.