Following eight days of intense shelling that left over 150 people killed, a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has come into effect. The truce was announced by Egypt's foreign minister and confirmed by both Israeli and Palestinian officials.
The truce announcement was made by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“These efforts and contacts have yielded an understanding about a truce and restoration of calm, and the halting of the bloodshed that we have witnessed during the recent period,” Amr said.
"A short while ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with [US] President Barack Obama and agreed to his recommendation to give a chance to an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire and thereby give an opportunity for the stabilization of the situation and a calming of it," the Netanyahu office's statement reads.
The deal stipulates that Israel “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip – land sea and air, including incursions and targeting of individuals,” while “all Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.”
The document also says that crossings should be opened to facilitate the movement of people and goods, and that residents’ free movements should not be restricted, while targeting residents in border areas should be.
According to the deal, the exact details of implementation will be decided 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.
The announcement comes after Clinton and UN chief Ban Ki-Moon traveled to Cairo on Wednesday to push for a ceasefire as the conflict entered its eighth day.
The UN Secretary-General met with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Clinton met with Morsi as well, and later with Amr.
"Ultimately every step must move us towards a comprehensive peace for the people of the region," Clinton said after the ceasefire was announced.
Later, during a special press conference devoted to the ceasefire, Netanyahu expressed gratitude to Clinton, Obama and Egypt for their, cooperation saying Israel “put in a lot of military power together with diplomatic.”
Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that all his government's military goals in Gaza were "achieved" as the ceasefire agreement came into effect. The IDF issued a statement saying that it accomplished its “pre-determined objectives” for the eight-days-long Operation Pillar of Defense, inflicting severe damage to Hamas and its military capabilities.
Meanwhile, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal declared the ceasefire agreement to be a major victory for Palestine, adding that while Israel claims to have reached its goals, it “failed to destroy Gaza’s infrastructure.”
“After eight days, God stayed their hand from the people of Gaza, and they were compelled to submit to the conditions of the resistance,” Meshaal said. ”Israel has failed in all its goals.”
Meshaal also thanked ceasefire mediator Egypt for its efforts in reaching the truce agreement, as well as Iran, which he said played a significant role in arming Hamas during the conflict. He added that Israel initiated the conflict and that Hamas was forced to respond. He urged Arab countries to provide armed assistance to the "Palestinian resistance."
Over the week of Israel's offensive, some 160 people were killed and 941 wounded in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Almost 100 of those killed were civilians, including 28 children, 13 women and several journalists. Almost every wounded person was a civilian as well.
On the Israeli side, five people were killed and 240 injured according to the IDF, which counted over 1,500 rockets fired from Gaza during the conflict. Only 421 of those rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome.
The Israeli military announced that it hit over 1,500 "terror sites" and killed 30 senior operatives during the operation. “I would say that most of the people that were hit in Gaza deserved it, as they were just armed terrorists,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Public Radio International, despite the large majority of Palestinians killed being unarmed civilians.
Rumors about an imminent truce circulated in the media for a while prior to its official announcement and confirmation by both sides.
Arab diplomats were active in the negotiation process. An Arab League delegation arrived in Gaza on Tuesday to support the Palestinian people, while last week Egypt's Prime Minister Hesham Kandil traveled to Gaza with a support mission.
On Tuesday, Hamas official Ayman Taha announced that an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was to be declared in Gaza at 19:00 GMT and would go into effect at 22:00 GMT the same night. Shortly after the announcement, Israel said a ceasefire deal was yet to be finalized.
Also on Tuesday, Morsi expressed certainty that Gaza and Israel would shortly reach a ceasefire, but did not elaborate on the matter.
But despite the truce, Israeli officials claim that over a dozen rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since the ceasefire came into effect.
The ceasefire between Hamas and Israel is unlikely to last long as Tel Aviv maintains its siege of Gaza, anti-war activist Don DeBar told RT.
“Unless the people of Gaza are allowed food and medicine and material to rebuild their blown-up country, then there is no justice until that happens and probably no peace,” he said, adding that for a lasting peace, Gazans' living conditions must be let to improve beyond the bare minimum for survival.