June 20, 2021

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Israel’s Cabinet Votes For A Cease-fire In The Gaza Conflict; Hamas Reportedly Agrees – NPR

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People gather near the rubble of a residential building hit by Israeli airstrikes Thursday in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip. Adel Hana/AP hide caption

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Adel Hana/AP

People gather near the rubble of a residential building hit by Israeli airstrikes Thursday in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip.

Adel Hana/AP

Israeli officials said Thursday they have voted for a cease-fire plan after 11 days of fighting with Hamas.

The Cabinet voted to accept an Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire, according to a statement from the Cabinet. An Egyptian government statement said the cease-fire would begin at 2 a.m. local time Friday.

Hamas has agreed to a truce, according to news wires. Hamas said the ceasefire would be “mutual and simultaneous,” Reuters reports.

Taher Nounou, a Hamas official, confirmed the deal to the Associated Press. “The Palestinian resistance will commit itself to this deal as long as the occupation is committed,” he said.

Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement Thursday that he had spoken with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and thanked him for the United States’ “support for Israel’s actions to protects its civilians and expressed his hope that the ceasefire will be honored.”

Fighting has not yet ceased. After Israel’s cease-fire announcement, air raid sirens went off in southern Israel warning of rocket fire, and Israeli strikes were heard in Gaza City.

The damage was vast in Gaza, where authorities say Israeli airstrikes and artillery have killed at least 230 people, including at least 60 children. Gaza’s water and electric grids were damaged, and tens of thousands were displaced from their homes.

Israel says militants fired some 4,000 rockets into the country, killing 12 people, including two children, and sending people repeatedly into shelters.

This was the fourth major outbreak of this kind of fighting – rockets and airstrikes — between Hamas and Israel since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip about 15 years ago.

The announcement came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his Cabinet ministers.

On Wednesday, President Biden increased pressure on Netanyahu to move toward a cease-fire. “The President conveyed to the Prime Minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” the White House said Wednesday.

International officials and aid organizations have expressed alarm at the scale of the destruction and loss of life in Gaza, where about 2 million people live. Gazans are unable to flee Israeli airstrikes amid an Israeli blockade, and Egypt keeps its border with Gaza almost entirely closed.

“If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres  said before the cease-fire announcement. “The fighting must stop immediately.”

In the south of Israel near Gaza, where rocket alarms have gone off daily for more than a week and thousands of Israelis have evacuated, those who remain expressed support for the ongoing campaign Thursday, even as most were anticipating an imminent cease-fire. Israel said its airstrikes were working to degrade the capabilities of militant organizations.

“Even though we’re not people who are warmongers, we are definitely in favor of the ongoing campaign,” said Eyal Hajbi, a security official for the regional council that governs the rural communities east of the Gaza Strip, whose council leader had recently met with Netanyahu to urge him to continue the bombardment.

“What has been going on in the last 20 years, and especially in the last decade, is something which we cannot tolerate anymore,” Hajbi said.

NPR correspondent Daniel Estrin contributed to this report from Jerusalem.
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