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Illustration by Security Management

Israel and Hamas Agree to Cease-Fire

Israel and Hamas began an unconditional cease-fire early Friday morning following mounting international pressure to halt airstrikes that killed more than 230 people in Gaza and 12 people in Israel.

Egypt took the lead in negotiating the deal and said it would send two delegations to monitor both sides to ensure there were no violations of the terms. As of Friday afternoon, however, there were small instances of violence as Israeli police fired stun grenades towards demonstrators in support of Gaza who remained at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem following prayers.

“Israeli police fired stun grenades towards demonstrators, who threw rocks and petrol bombs at officers, and Palestinian medics said some 20 Palestinians were wounded,” Reuters reported. “The confrontations died down within about an hour, with Israeli police pulling back to the compound’s gates.” 

In remarks at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that Israel was fighting terrorists who were hiding among the civilian population in Gaza and claimed that Israel did everything within its power to prevent civilian casualties while carrying out airstrikes. Netanyahu said that “without the Iron Dome, we would have had to have a ground invasion of Gaza to stop them from firing their missiles and the casualty list would have soared to stratospheric heights.”

Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a Reuters report that he viewed the 11-day conflict as a successful resistance.

“We will rebuild what the occupation (Israel) destroyed and restore our capabilities, and we will not abandon our obligations and duties to the families of martyrs, the wounded, and those whose homes were destroyed,” he said.

Israel said that the airstrikes it launched over the last 11 days killed more than 200 Hamas militants—including 25 senior commanders. Hamas, however, said that only 20 of its representatives were killed during the attacks.

“The Gaza Health Ministry says at least 243 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children, with 1,910 people wounded,” according to the AP. “It does not differentiate between fighters and civilians. Twelve people were killed in Israel, all but one of them civilians, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl.”

The AP has continued to report from Gaza despite its office being destroyed by an Israeli airstrike earlier in the week. The tower that hosted the AP’s office was also home to Al Jazeera’s Gaza office and apartments for Palestinian families. Israel said it targeted the building because Hamas was operating out of it.

“AP continues to call for an independent investigation into the destruction of the building housing our Gaza bureau so that the facts are known,” said AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt in a statement. “As we have said, we have no indication of a Hamas presence in the building, nor were we warned of any such possible presence before the airstrike. This is something we check as best we can. We do not know what the Israeli evidence shows, and we want to know. 

“Had we seen any credible information that our journalists were at risk or our ability to report the news accurately and fairly was compromised, we would have taken action to address the situation. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

While the ceasefire has received praise from leaders and is unconditional, the underlying causes that led to the conflict have not been addressed.

“Hamas and Israel have been engaged in some form of conflict since the Palestinian group was founded in the 1980s,” according to The New York Times. “This particular round of military action began as Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem in response to several police raids on the Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, and the planned evictions of several Palestinian families from their homes in the city.

“Even with the pause in fighting, the underlying causes of the conflict remain: the dispute over land rights in Jerusalem and the West Bank, religious tensions in the Old City of Jerusalem, and the absence of a peace process to resolve the conflict. Gaza remains under a punishing blockade by Israel and Egypt.”