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Israel, Hamas agree to ceasefire starting tonight

A missile from the Israeli Iron Dome, launched during the Operation Pillar of Defense to intercept a missile coming from the Gaza strip. (IDF/Flickr)
May 20, 2021

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet approved a cease-fire Thursday as part of a truce with Hamas, intending to put an end to an 11-day military operation in Gaza.

“The Political Security Cabinet unanimously accepted … the Egyptian initiative for a bilateral ceasefire without any conditions,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

A Hamas official reportedly told Reuters that a “mutual and simultaneous” truce between Israel and Hamas will begin at 2 a.m. local time on Friday — 7 p.m. EST in the U.S.

One official said PM Netanyahu approved the truce on the basis of “quiet in exchange for quiet.”

President Joe Biden later confirmed the news of the ceasefire from the White House.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu informed me that Israel has agreed to a mutual, unconditional ceasefire to begin in less than 2 hours,” Biden said. “The Egyptians have now informed us that Hamas and other the groups in Gaza have also agreed.”

Biden said he commended Netanyahu for the decision to bring an end to the hostilities, which “have resulted in the deaths of many civilians, including children.”

Biden said he pledged to Netanyahu that the U.S. would replenish its Iron Dome missile defense system.

“I assured him with my full support to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system to ensure its defenses and security in the future,” Biden said, adding that Netanyahu expressed appreciation for the joint U.S.-Israel developed system, which has saved “countless Israeli lives – both Arab and Jew.”

On Wednesday, Biden had told Netanyahu during a call that he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.” Shortly after, Netanyahu released a public statement vowing to continue the strikes on Hamas terrorists.

“I am determined to continue this operation until its objective is achieved: to restore calm and security to you, the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a public announcement to Israelis.

The ceasefire aims to end 11 straight days of rocket attacks fired at Israel by Hamas. Israel Defense Forces said on Wednesday afternoon that 4,000 rockets had been fired at Israel over 10 days.

The conflict began May 10 when Gaza fired rockets at Jerusalem after clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at a sacred site, the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israel responded with many airstrikes on Hamas locations, taking out weapons storage and launching equipment, computer systems, tunnel systems, and even the group’s commanders.