An Egyptian-mediated truce between Israel and Hamas went into effect at 2 AM local time this morning (2300 GMT Thursday) following the worst violence in years between the two sides.
In an address to the nation today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the citizens of the country “for standing firm and your noteworthy resilience which you showcased during the eleven days of the campaign,” which he said, “allowed us to achieve the goals of the campaign with extraordinary success.”
He then took the opportunity to convey condolences to the families the 12 people killed by Gaza rocket fire on Israel during Operation Guardian of the Walls, saying, “I know the magnitude of your pain. Our hearts are with you.”
The death toll in Israel included 8 Israeli civilians, 2 foreign workers from Thailand, 1 caregiver from India and 1 IDF soldier. Hundreds of others were treated for injuries in rocket attacks, or sustained while rushing for refuge into bomb shelters.
After underscoring his sole obligation that guides his decision-making as the nation’s leader is to ensure the state’s security and safeguard the lives of its citizens and soldiers, Netanyahu asserted that all objectives of the military campaign had been achieved. This, he said, included a return to calm after wreaking a heavy blow on Gaza’s terrorist organizations and their capabilities, while establishing deterrence against future attacks.
“This is exactly what we have done,” he said, going on to disclose that not only the Israeli public – but also Hamas – is unaware of everything that had been accomplished, “but our overall achievements will be unveiled as time progresses.”
Saying that the Islamist Hamas rulers of the Palestinian enclave were wrong by believing they could launch missiles at Jerusalem and other Israeli cities of Israel with impunity, Prime Minister Netanyahu said they instead “sustained 11 days and nights of tremendous blows and crushing might which altered the rules of the game.”
He then emphasized that the IDF not only “altered the equation” during the campaign, but “also for the future. If Hamas thinks that we will tolerate sporadic rocket fire it is mistaken. We will respond with different kind of force to any glimpse of aggression against the residents of the [Gaza] periphery or any other place in the State of Israel.”
“What once was is not what will be,” he stressed.
Last night, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a statement at 11:09 PM announcing that the Security Cabinet had “unanimously accepted the recommendation of all of the security officials, the IDF Chief of Staff, the head of the ISA, the head of the Mossad and the head of the National Security Council to accept the Egyptian initiative for a mutual ceasefire without pre-conditions, to take effect at a time to be determined.”
The decision came after the ministers were briefed on Israel’s significant achievements in the operation, “some of which are unprecedented,” said the statement, adding that “The political leadership emphasizes that it is the reality on the ground that will determine the future of the operation.”
Even though the imminent ceasefire had been announced hours earlier, Palestinian-fired rocket salvoes from Gaza continued to pound Israeli civilian areas until 1:49 AM.
Each side said it stood ready to retaliate for any truce violations by the other. Egypt said it would send two delegations to monitor the ceasefire.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued a lengthy statement following today’s meeting at the IDF Command in Tel Aviv with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Shin Bet Head Nadav Argaman.
“My Fellow Israelis – It’s over, but it’s not done,” cautioned the top defense chief.
He then commended the IDF for having “exhibited the most powerful intelligence and executive capacity in the history of this country,” which he said obliterated Gaza’s underground tunnel networks, many of the enemy’s operational capacities and over 200 terrorists, including some very senior ones.
To read additional remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, see below.
Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror organizations began firing barrages of missiles at Jerusalem on 10 May, over what they viewed curbs on their rights in the city during police confrontations with Arab protesters at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as well as an ongoing property dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood between Arabs and Jews.
Hamas-employed health officials said 232 Palestinians in Gaza were killed and more than 1,900 others wounded in Israeli aerial bombardments.
Residents in the impoverished enclave celebrated the announced ceasefire by pouring onto Gaza’s streets as mosque loud-speakers feted “the victory of the resistance achieved over the Occupation (Israel).”
Reflecting those scenes in Sheikh Jarrah, Arab residents drove cars around Jerusalem at dawn while flying Palestinian flags and honking their horns. Other Arab neighborhoods shot off fireworks.
This afternoon, Muslim worshippers clashed with Israeli police after Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. Arab rioters hurled rocks and cheered as one officer was attacked. Israeli security forces responded with crowd-dispersal measures, including the firing of stun grenades and tear gas.
Hamas also portrayed the battle as the successful resistance of a militarily and economically stronger foe Israel, which it has repeatedly vowed to annihilate.
“It is true the battle ends today but Netanyahu and the whole world should know that our hands are on the trigger and we will continue to grow the capabilities of this resistance,” proclaimed senior Hamas political bureau member Ezzat El-Reshiq – who it should be noted, safely resides in luxury quarters in Qatar.
El-Reshiq told Reuters in Doha that his movement’s demands include the “protection” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and cancelation of court orders to evict several Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah.
Analysts believe the primary objective of the Hamas rocket assault was to further marginalize Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who had just cancelled the first Palestinian legislative elections since 2006 slated to be held tomorrow over fear his Islamist rivals in Gaza would make further gains.
Hamas presented itself as the guardian of Palestinians in Jerusalem – whose eastern sector they seek for a future state – by explicitly dubbing their rocket operation “Sword of Jerusalem.”
Abbas, 85, remained on the sidelines during the 11-day conflict. He managed to received his first telephone call with US President Joe Biden during the crisis – four months after Biden took office – but his Western-backed Palestinian Authority exerts little influence over Gaza.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who was appointed by Abbas, reacted to the truce by saying, “We welcome the success of the international efforts led by Egypt to stop the Israeli aggression against our people in Gaza Strip.”
In another worrying sign for Abbas and his Fatah faction, some Palestinians waved green Hamas flags in the seat of his Palestinian Authority (PA) government at the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Hamas previously demanded that any halt to the Gaza fighting be accompanied by Israeli drawdowns in Jerusalem, but an Israeli official told Reuters there was no such condition in the truce.
US President Biden welcomed news of the ceasefire in a televised address on Thursday.
He extended condolences to bereaved Israelis and Palestinians, while vowing to work with the United Nations “and other international stakeholders to provide rapid humanitarian assistance” for Gaza and its reconstruction.
Biden stressed that US aid to Gaza would be coordinated with the PA “in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal.” The Iran-backed Hamas is deemed a terrorist group in the West and by Israel, which it refuses to recognize.
Biden also declared his intention to try to offset the eruption of future rounds of hostilities in the seemingly endless cycle of violence.
“I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely, and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” he said, adding that, “My administration will continue our quiet, relentless diplomacy toward that end. I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress, and I’m committed to working for it.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi several times yesterday. According to State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, “the Secretary welcomed the Foreign Minister’s confirmation that the parties had agreed to a ceasefire,” and “Both leaders expressed their appreciation for Egypt’s mediation efforts.”
Price also noted Foreign Minister Ashkenazi’s positive reception of Blinken also plans to travel to the Middle East so he can “meet with Israeli, Palestinian, and regional counterparts in the coming days to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians.”
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres made a statement to reporters at the world body’s headquarters in New York a few minutes before the negotiated ceasefire was due to take effect.
“I welcome the ceasefire between Gaza and Israel, after 11 days of deadly hostilities,” he said, extending his deepest condolences to all the victims of the violence, and their loved ones, across Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Additional Portions of the Statement by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz:
“My Fellow Israelis – It’s over, but it’s not done.
Our security forces and the IDF, led by the Chief of Staff, have exhibited the most powerful intelligence and executive capacity in the history of this country. I’d like to thank you, CoS, and you, Shin Bet head, for so remarkably leading the charge.
First and foremost, we destroyed the underground threat, we impaired many of the enemy’s operative capacities, we eliminated over 200 terrorists, including some very senior ones, we managed to thwart Hamas’ plans to infiltrate and terrorize our civilians, also sending in drones, and staying active on the naval front as well.
Hamas was taken by surprise, but these were operative plans that were formed months ago.
I, the Chief of Staff, and the entire military and security apparatus, had been holding consultations, training exercise and briefings, and we came prepared. The Israeli public did certainly experience painful losses, and we share the grief of the families. But we should state clearly: The public heroically withstood the test of terrorism. Ongoing barrages of fatal incoming rockets, fired indiscriminately on our cities, towns, and communities, on Jews and Arabs alike, met the Iron Dome system and an Israeli homefront that is strong as rock. You, the Israeli people, are what victory looks like.
At this point, the military phase is over. Now is the time for political resolution.
On the ruins of the homes of Hamas leaders and of over 100 kilometers of terror tunnels, it is our duty to construct a new reality. Diplomacy doesn’t mean rushed agreements; it means gearing up for long-term processes that can weaken the extremists and strengthen and connect the moderates.
While we were leading the campaign, I was also in contact with world leaders, and with U.S. Defense Secretary in particular. The support for our right to defend our civilians, given by the American Administration, under President Biden’s leadership, alongside dozens of other heads of state, is a strategic asset for the State of Israel. And we are greatly appreciative.
Over the past few days, I have spoken with leaders from moderate Arab countries. Both those with whom we have official ties as well as with those with whom we do not. We have an opportunity for change. We must not neglect it. We must not blink. We must not close the door that has been opened.
During the campaign, we weakened Hamas militarily and hit its assets. Now is the time to strengthen the moderate forces around them. To condition development and rehabilitation – not just on quiet, but also, and primarily, on progress toward bringing back the remains of our soldiers and our living civilian hostages. That is our ethical duty as a country, which I carry with me day in and day out and at every waking moment. But it goes beyond that. Not only quiet in exchange for quiet. Quiet in exchange for hope, growth, and moderation. If we don’t move forward quickly on the political front, “Guardian of the Walls” will go down as just another round on the way to the next campaign. The Israeli government is not entitled to turn an unprecedented military achievement into a missed opportunity. This is our duty to the entire Israeli people, and particularly to the residents of our southern region, who have been on the front lines for years now. You deserve quiet just like the people of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The people of Gaza also deserve the type of quiet that fair employment will bring in the place of the rocket factories that were destroyed. The ability to educate their children is also the right thing for the people of Gaza, rather than the endless hatred fueled and cultivated by their leaders who have taken them hostage to poverty and hopelessness. They deserve a modern healthcare system, water infrastructure, electricity, and sewage, and hospitals that won’t become safe havens for terrorists and their rocket stores.
My fellow Israelis,
Throughout this military campaign, beyond the many external threats, we have also faced a deep internal crisis. We stopped the immediate bleeding through our police officers, who acted with professionalism and resolve, significantly assisted by Border Patrol police, by the Shin-Bet and the State’s Attorney’s office, all of whom stepped up to the immediate task at hand for our country – countering nationalist terror that had spread through our streets.
I would like to express my great appreciation to the Police Commissioner and to all of his teams that were working under very difficult conditions.
Israeli society doesn’t just need immediate intensive care, though. It needs a deep healing process. It needs to uproot extremists who are stoking the fire internally. It needs to strengthen the solidarity between us all. It needs education that acknowledges difference and encourages mutual respect. This is our most pressing national task at this time.
Finally, I would like to remind us all that security conditions are still difficult. IDF troops are still on the ground throughout the country, prepared for any challenge on any front. I remind Hamas that the cost of violating the quiet will be heavy, very heavy. And still, staying aware, following instructions, and responsibility are all called for at this time.”