A ceasefire came into force in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Friday morning after Egypt brokered an agreement between Israel and Hamas to halt 11 days of conflict.
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.”
Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad then confirmed the ceasefire in a statement, saying it would come into force at 2:00am on Friday (23:00 GMT on Thursday).
Thousands of people in Gaza and the Palestinian territories poured onto the streets to celebrate the ceasefire, waving flags and flashing ‘V’ signs for victory.
At least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, have been killed in the Israeli bombardment.
On the Israeli side, 12 people, including two children, have been killed.
China will send assistance to help treat the injured and find new accommodation for those left homeless as a result of the Israeli air attacks on Gaza, state media reported, citing Tian Lin, a spokesperson for the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA).
Pakistan has welcomed the announcement of the Gaza ceasefire and a series of demonstrations are planned across the country to mark a day of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi welcomed the ceasefire, describing it as “the power of collective, unified action; this is the effort of every person and every nation, together for a just cause”.
Rallies will be held in main cities, including Islamabad, the capital, Karachi and Lahore.
There is skepticism in Israel about the bombardment of Gaza and the ceasefire despite claims from the country’s defense minister that the attacks had set Hamas back, according to Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett who is in West Jerusalem.
“There’s a lot of concern and questioning about where this has got anybody – apart from more destruction and more death,” Fawcett said, noting: “There’s a sense that this has all been said before.”
A Hamas official has told the Reuters news agency that Israel must end its violations in Jerusalem and address damages from the bombardment of Gaza following the ceasefire, warning the group still has its “hands on the trigger”.
“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,” Ezzat El-Reshiq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, told the news agency.
He told the Reuters news agency in Doha that the movement’s demands also include protecting Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and ending the eviction of several Palestinians from their home in occupied East Jerusalem which Reshiq described as “a red line”.
“What comes after the battle of ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ is not like what came before because the Palestinian people backed the resistance and know that the resistance is what will liberate their land and protect their holy sites,” Reshiq said.
Some people in Gaza who had been taking shelter in school buildings after their homes were damaged in Israeli raids began returning as soon as the ceasefire began, according to Al Jazeera’s Youmna Al Sayed who is reporting from Gaza.
But she said many residents had had their homes completely destroyed and the task of rebuilding the city would be a “daunting challenge” thanks to the closure of border crossings which has starved Gaza of crucial building materials, fuel and other necessities.
“We are talking about rebuilding a territory that was already suffering a dire economic situation, high unemployment and the coronavirus outbreak,” she said.
A family that was sheltering at a United Nations run school, return with their belongings to their home following the ceasefire [Mohammed Abed/AFP]
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Washington, DC, says the Biden administration had planned to focus on domestic issues in its first year, but Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has thrust Middle East peace back to the top of the US foreign policy agenda.
Elizondo says Blinken’s visit suggests the US wants to “seize on this opportunity to push for a more stable and longer lasting peace beyond the ceasefire”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is planning to travel to the Middle East “in the coming days” following the Friday ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Blinken has spoken to his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, who “welcomed Secretary Blinken’s planned travel to the region, where the secretary will 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,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Speaking to thousands of people celebrating the ceasefire in Gaza City, a senior Hamas figure has claimed victory in the conflict with Israel, according to the AFP news agency.
“This is the euphoria of victory,” said Khalil al-Hayya, the second-most senior member of the group’s political bureau in the Gaza Strip. He also promised to reconstruct homes destroyed by Israeli air raids.