Israel, Hamas truce comes into effect

2012-11-21 21:42
(Musa Al Shaer, AFP)

(Musa Al Shaer, AFP)

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Gaza City - The truce agreed to by Israel and Hamas to end the conflict in the Gaza Strip, came into effect on Wednesday night after eight days of the fiercest fighting in nearly four years.

The deal was brokered by the new Egyptian government, solidifying its role as a leader in the quickly-shifting Middle East after two days of intense shuttle diplomacy that saw US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton race to the region. Under the agreement, Egypt will play a key role in maintaining the peace.

Standing next to Clinton, Egypt's foreign minister, Mohammed Kamel Amr, announced the breakthrough and said the deal, capping days of intense efforts that drew the world's top diplomats into the fray.

The agreement will "improve conditions for the people of Gaza and provide security for the people of Israel", Clinton said at the news conference in Cairo.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he agreed to the cease-fire after consulting with US President Barack Obama.

Israel launched the fierce Israeli offensive in Gaza on 14 November to stop months of intensifying rocket attacks. Even after the deal was announced, air raid sirens continued to wail in southern Israel.

Last-minute rocket fire

In the last-minute burst of fire, Palestinian militants fired several bursts of rockets, Israeli authorities said. One rocket hit a house in the southern city of Beersheba, police said. No injuries were reported.

Israel launched well over 1 500 airstrikes and other attacks on targets in Gaza, while more than 1 000 rockets pounded Israel. In all, more than 140 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, were killed, while five Israelis died in the fighting.

According to a copy of the agreement obtained by The Associated Press, Israel and all Palestinian militant groups agreed to halt "all hostilities".

For the Palestinians, that means an end to Israeli airstrikes and assassinations of wanted militants. For Israel, it brings a halt to rocket fire and attempts at cross-border incursions from Gaza.

After a 24-hour cooling off period, it calls for "opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents free movement".

Hamas officials said details on the new border arrangements would have to be negotiated.

Under the agreement, Egypt will play a key role. It said "Egypt shall receive assurances from each party" that they are committed to the deal.

"Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would break this understanding," it adds. "In case of any observations, Egypt - as the sponsor of this understanding - shall be informed to follow up."

The agreement came after Clinton shuttled across the region to help broker an end to the violence.

She ended her meetings in Cairo, where Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi mediated between Israel and Hamas.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also flew across the region as part of the diplomatic cease-fire push.


- AP
Read more on:    gaza strip  |  egypt  |  palestine  |  israel  |  north africa  |  middle east peace
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