Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Thursday announced an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire to halt an 11-day military operation against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s cabinet agreed “to accept the Egyptian initiative for a bilateral cease-fire without any conditions, which will take effect later,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
The development followed growing U.S. and international pressure on Israel to call off a military operation that pounded the Gaza Strip with airstrikes for almost two weeks. Hamas fired rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas in Israel.
Israel described the truce as “mutual and unconditional.”
But hostilities between the two sides remained high. Even as the cease-fire was confirmed, Israel’s Defense Forces said sirens alerting Israeli residents of Hamas rocket fire were sounding in the south of the country. And they were still negotiating exactly when it would take effect.
Multiple reports said the truce was to go into effect at 2 a.m. Friday morning local time (7 p.m ET) – just over three hours after the cabinet’s decision. Hamas leader Osama Hamdan appeared to confirm that timeframe.
Since the fighting began on May 10, at least 230 Palestinians have been killed, including 64 children and 38 women, and another 1,620 people have been wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians.
In Israel, 12 people, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier, have been killed.
There was no immediate reaction from the White House.
The agreement for a truce came a day after President Joe Biden pressed Netanyahu to de-escalate the conflict and move toward a cease-fire. Biden’s appeal to Netanyahu reportedly strengthened Egypt’s efforts to negotiate a ceasefire.
The U.S. president quietly ramped up pressure on Israel in recent days as he faced mounting international alarm over the rising death toll and growing demands from Democrats in Congress for a cease-fire.
The violence wreaked far more devastation in Gaza than in Israel, with an estimated 58,000 Palestinians displaced from their homes and untold damage to the territory’s infrastructure, which was already dilapidated by a 14-year blockade.
Israeli attacks damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, according to the World Health Organization said. WHO officials also said the central COVID-19 testing lab in Gaza City was almost totally destroyed, and the violence caused “severe restrictions” on the delivery of medical supplies.
The fighting between Israel and Hamas began after the militant group fired rockets toward Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police.