After eight days of deadly fighting and air raids, both Hamas and Israel have come to an agreement to back off.
A cease-fire was announced earlier today by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr of Egypt and was welcomed by all leaders involved.
According to The New York Times, the hold on fighting isn’t a certainty:
Even in the minutes leading up to the effective start time, the antagonists were firing at each other, and the Israeli authorities reported at least five Palestinian rockets were lobbed into southern Israel shortly after the cease-fire had begun. But no damage or injuries were reported and the rocket fire seemed to end in the second hour. In Gaza, thousands of residents came outside to celebrate.
“This is a critical moment for the region,” Mrs. Clinton, who rushed to the Middle East late Tuesday in an intensified effort to halt the hostilities, told reporters in Cairo. She thanked Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, who played a pivotal role in the negotiations, for “assuming the leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace.”
Mrs. Clinton also pledged to work “with our partners across the region to consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people of Gaza, provide security for the people of Israel.”
Mr. Amr said Egypt’s role in reaching the agreement reflected its “historical commitment to the Palestinian cause” and Egypt’s efforts to “bring together the gap between the Palestinian factions.”
The top leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, also had strong words of praise for the Egyptian leader, a former official in the Muslim Brotherhood, in which Hamas has roots. At a news conference in Cairo, Mr. Meshal thanked Egypt for its role and said Israel had “failed in all its objectives.”
The negotiators reached an agreement after days of nearly nonstop Israeli aerial assaults on Gaza, the Mediterranean enclave run by Hamas, and the firing of hundreds of rockets into Israel from an arsenal Hamas had been amassing since the three-week Israeli invasion four years ago.
Under the terms distributed after the cease-fire was announced, Israel agreed to stop all land, sea and air hostilities in Gaza, including the “targeting of individuals” — a reference to militants of Hamas and its affiliates who have been killed. The cease-fire also called on the Palestinian factions in Gaza to stop all hostilities against Israel, including rocket attacks and attacks along the border.
But the terms also state that underlying grievances of Gazans, most notably the border restrictions Israel has imposed that impede the movement of people and goods through Gaza, will be addressed starting 24 hours after the cease-fire is in effect. Precisely how they will be addressed was left unclear.
Also left unclear was how the agreement would be enforced, but the terms stated that “each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this understanding.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who had been threatening to start another ground invasion if the Gaza rockets did not stop, said in a statement that he was satisfied, for the moment, with the outcome. But he left open the possibility of more military action.
This is centuries of fighting that we hope leaders can find some resolution to soon.
Images via AP
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