President Joe Biden on Thursday said he commended the cease-fire reached between Israel and Hamas in a phone call with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hours earlier, Netanyahu’s office announced the cease-fire to halt the military operation against Hamas militants in Gaza, putting an end to nearly two weeks of fighting.
“I also emphasized what I've said throughout this conflict,” the president said of the call, adding: “The United States fully supports Israel's right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel.”
Biden also said the United States vowed to “replenish the Iron Dome system,” a defense system developed to intercept short-range unguided rockets and has shot down some 2,500 incoming projectiles fired from the Gaza Strip since it was deployed a decade ago.
Biden said he has spoken with Netanyahu six times over the past 11 days, as well as Palestinian authorities “more than once.” The U.S. is willing to work with these authorities — not Hamas — in order to help rebuild damaged infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, which sustained considerable damage during the worst of the fighting.
“I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely, and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Biden said. “My administration will continue our quiet, relentless diplomacy towards that end.”
The cease-fire, Biden said, will begin within a number of hours.
Israel's Security Cabinet on Thursday voted unanimously "to accept the Egyptian initiative for a bilateral cease-fire without any conditions, which will take effect later," but warned "that the reality on the ground will determine the continuation of the campaign."
The decision came after heavy pressure from President Joe Biden, the United States and other international partners to put an end to the skirmish, the deadliest violence since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
One member of the Security Cabinet, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the cease-fire would take effect at 2 a.m., roughly three hours after the announcement. A Hamas official told Reuters that they will enter into a "mutual and simultaneous" truce with Israel at 2 a.m. local time on Friday.
Air-raid sirens signifiying incoming rocket fire sounded in Southern Israel after the announcement, according to the Israeli Defense Forces.
The IDF said Thursday that rockets stopped firing for 8 hours, the longest such stretch since fighting began.
The fighting began May 10, when Hamas militants in Gaza fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims. Heavy-handed police tactics at the compound and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers had inflamed tensions.
Since May 10, Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes on what they claim is Hamas' infrastructure, while Hamas and other militant groups have fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities.
At least 230 Palestinians have been killed, including 65 children and 39 women, with over 1,700 wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Twelve people in Israel have been killed, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier.
Hamas and the militant group Islamic Jihad said at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel said the number is at least 130. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes, many of them seeking shelter in crowded U.N. schools at a time of a raging coronavirus outbreak.
Since the fighting began, Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated.
Medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are running low in the territory, on which Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized power in 2007.
Israel considers Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks its destruction, to be a terrorist group and Hamas’ government is not internationally recognized.
Israeli bombing has damaged over 50 schools across the territory, according to advocacy group Save the Children, completely destroying at least six. While repairs are done, education will be disrupted for nearly 42,000 children.
Israeli attacks have also damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organization said. Nearly half of all essential drugs have run out.
This is a developing story. Check back later for further updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.