Israel, Hamas agree to ceasefire

The fighting between Israel and Palestinian Islamists in Gaza that began on May 10 after weeks of rising tensions between the Israeli and Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem came to a tentative and fragile conclusion on May 21 after an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into effect.

Over the course of the 11-day conflict, more than 4,300 rockets were fired by Hamas, the Iranian-backed terrorist organization that has controlled the Gaza Strip for nearly 15 years, towards Israel, killing 12 people, including two children.

The Israeli military carried out several dozen air sorties against Hamas, hitting over 1,000 targets and killing up to 300 militants. Hamas’ health ministry has claimed that at least 243 people, including more than 100 were killed in Gaza, during the fighting, though the casualty numbers have yet to be independently verified.

The cessation of hostilities came amid mounting pressure from the United States on Israel and the militant Palestinian factions to end the fighting. Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations played key roles in helping to mediate a de-escalation that will play out as part of a two-stage deal that will see Cairo send security delegations to Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Territories to agree on measures to maintain stability.

US President Joe Biden said several hours before the ceasefire officially began that American aid would be sent quickly to Gaza and would be coordinated with the internationally recognized and Western-backed Palestinian Authority – Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s bitter rival – “in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal”.

Noticeable in the negotiations was the up-front role played by Egypt and Qatar in brokering the deal, as both the Saudis and Europeans played no visible role in bringing an end to the fighting.

Looking ahead, the ceasefire will be at best fragile. While both sides claim victory, the ultimate outcome of nearly two weeks of heavy fighting and hundreds of casualties is a reversion to the status quo ante.

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