Israel, Gaza militants announce ceasefire

Adel Zaanoun with Guillaume Lavallee in Jerusalem, Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 21 2021 04:16 AM | Updated as of May 21 2021 05:07 AM

Israel, Gaza militants announce ceasefire 1
People look out from a building damaged after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip last week landed nearby, in Petah Tikva, Israel May 20, 2021. Nir Elias, Reuters

Egypt to monitor Israel-Gaza truce

Israel and the two main armed groups in Gaza agreed to a ceasefire on Thursday aimed at ending end 11 days of deadly violence.

A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the security cabinet had "unanimously accepted the recommendations to accept an Egyptian initiative for an unconditional . . . ceasefire."

Hamas and Islamic Jihad then confirmed the ceasefire in a statement, saying it would come into force at 2 a.m. Friday (2300 GMT). 

The Israeli statement did not mention when the truce would come into force.

Meanwhile, two Egyptian security delegations will be sent to monitor a ceasefire deal aimed at bringing an end to 11 days of deadly violence, diplomatic sources told AFP.

The delegations will be sent to Tel Aviv and the Palestinian territories to "monitor (the ceasefire's) implementation and procedures to maintain stable conditions permanently".

The Egyptian-mediated "simultaneous and mutual ceasefire" is to come into force at 2300 GMT Thursday, the sources said, confirming announcements by Israel and Palestinian armed groups. 

The fighting has seen Israeli jets pound Gaza with air strikes as militants fired thousands of rockets into Israel, after days of tensions in Jerusalem sharply escalated on May 10.

Earlier Thursday in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, an AFP reporter saw devastating Israeli air strikes turn buildings into clouds of dust and rubble as an ambulance sped across town to help the wounded.

Rocket fire from Gaza had intensified in the afternoon, sending Israelis nearby running for shelters, according to Israeli army warnings.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres had told the General Assembly Thursday that "the fighting must stop immediately".

"If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza," Guterres added.

News of the ceasefire deal came after US President Joe Biden called for a "significant de-escalation".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended the evening meeting with top security officials, had earlier vowed to push on until the military campaign reaches its objective, "to restore quiet and security" for Israelis.

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