Palestinians inspect a location hit during an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on May 20, 2021.
Mahmud Hams | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – Israel’s security cabinet on Thursday voted for a provisional ceasefire after 11 days of fighting with Hamas in Israel and the Gaza Strip, raising hopes that the worst violence in years will end.
Speaking to Arab television broadcaster Al-Mayadeen, a Hamas official said the group had “received guarantees from intermediaries” that Israeli air strikes on Gaza would stop and the ceasefire would begin at 2:00 am local time on Friday.
In a speech shortly after 6 p.m. ET Thursday, US President Joe Biden said he had been informed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel had agreed to “a mutual, unconditional ceasefire due to begin in less than two hours.”
Biden said Egypt informed him that Hamas had also agreed to end hostilities. He thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for the crucial role Cairo played in negotiating the ceasefire.
“I believe the Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve to live safely and securely and equally enjoy freedom, prosperity and democracy,” said Biden of the White House.
“My administration will continue our calm, relentless diplomacy to this end. I believe we have a real chance to make progress and I am determined to work for it,” he added.
US President Joe Biden speaks ahead of a ceasefire agreed by Israel and Hamas during a brief appearance at Cross Hall in the White House in Washington on May 20, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
The news of a truce follows a call Wednesday between Biden and Netanyahu. During that call, Biden said he expected “significant de-escalation” of the violence, according to the White House report.
It was their fourth conversation since the outbreak of violence between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian-Islamic political party with an armed wing of the same name that controls the Gaza Strip.
The tone from Washington to Tel Aviv has grown impatient in recent days as the death toll in Gaza from Israeli air strikes surpassed 200, including more than 100 women and children. In Israel, 12 people were killed by rockets fired by Hamas on Thursday afternoon.
The latest round of fighting was the worst outbreak of violence since the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014.
In his evening address on Thursday, Biden expressed condolences to the Palestinian and Israeli families who had lost loved ones and reiterated that the United States would work with the United Nations and others to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza and rebuild the Support territory.
“We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority and not Hamas so that Hamas cannot simply replenish its military arsenal,” added Biden.
The White House pursued a strategy of so-called “quiet, intense diplomacy” behind the scenes in the days leading up to the armistice.
“We have received over 60 calls from the president downwards to senior leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other leaders in the region since the conflict began,” White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday.
“The President has been doing this for a long time, for decades, he believes this is the approach we need to take,” she added.
A demolished 6-story building in the Al-Rimal neighborhood houses libraries, youth centers, training courses for university students and a mosque that was bombed by Israeli planes during raids in Gaza City, Gaza, on May 18, 2021.
Momen Faiz | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Biden appeared unwilling to publicly pressure Netanyahu to stop air strikes on what Israel says are military targets embedded in civilian neighborhoods in Gaza.
This has led to progressive Democrats in Congress and US allies abroad calling on the President to take a more visible role and put more diplomatic pressure on Israel, which is heavily dependent on the United States for weapons and military equipment.
In his conversation with Netanyahu on Thursday, Biden reiterated US support for Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas rocket attacks. The president also told the prime minister that the US would help Israel replenish its Iron Dome defense system, which is used to intercept such missile attacks.