POLITICS

Israel And Palestinian Militants Agree To Cease-Fire

Days of Israeli strikes on Gaza and Hamas rocket attacks inside Israel have killed at least 232 Palestinians and 12 Israelis, and wounded hundreds more.

Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas have agreed to a cease-fire, they announced in separate statements on Thursday afternoon, pausing their worst clash since 2014.

The fighting, which has killed at least 232 Palestinians and 12 Israelis, will stop early Friday morning local time. 

After an Israeli crackdown on Palestinians in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Hamas and allied militants began launching rockets at Israeli towns on May 10. Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza, the crowded and isolated territory ruled by Hamas, that killed dozens of civilians ― including more than 60 children ― and destroyed critical infrastructure, such as medical facilities. 

The cease-fire does not immediately address the priorities that the two sides cited for the burst of violence: Israel’s actions in Jerusalem and Hamas’s underground tunnel system for storing rockets. That raises the risk of continued tension and a possible additional outbreak in violence, International Crisis Group analyst Mairav Zonszein noted on Twitter.

The lack of a clear resolution also bolsters the argument that such days-long skirmishes achieve little while causing dramatic human suffering and making Israeli-Palestinian peace less likely.

The latest round of bloodshed drove unprecedented clashes in cities within Israel that are home to both Israelis and Palestinians and has displaced thousands of people within Gaza as hundreds of buildings were attacked.

The U.S., which is implicated in the conflict through its heavy support for Israel, encouraged cease-fire negotiations, which were largely managed by American ally Egypt.

But in repeated calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Joe Biden did not mention a cease-fire until a week into the flare-up ― while leaders in his party, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), called for an immediate halt.

Critics of the Biden administration, including many of the president’s allies, say their team should have recognized the risk of dramatic escalation sooner and used American leverage earlier. Instead, the U.S. doubled down on demonstrating support for Israel, blocking United Nations statements to urge a cease-fire and unveiling a new $735 million weapons sale to the country.

Lawmakers are now attempting to block that arms deal through legislation.

In the final hours before the cease-fire went into effect, Israel launched at least one additional strike in Gaza and said it detected incoming rockets from the region.