Israel and Hamas agree to a cease-fire, potentially ending the bloodiest fighting the region has seen in years

Israel Palestine
Palestinians next to the remains of a 15-story building hit by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on May 13. Abdel Kareem Hana/Associated Press
  • Israel and Hamas on Thursday agreed to a cease-fire.
  • The recent violence marked the worst violence in the region since 2014.
  • Biden faced criticism from Democrats and human-rights groups over his approach to the bloodshed.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Thursday agreed to a cease-fire, in a move that could end the bloodiest fighting the region has seen since 2014.

Israel’s security cabinet voted to approve the truce, which was proposed by Egypt. A Hamas official told Reuters the cease-fire would be “mutual and simultaneous.” The cease-fire will take effect at 2 a.m. local time on Friday, according to Reuters.

The tenuous agreement came after Hamas sent thousands of rockets in Israel’s direction and the Israeli military responded by pummeling Gaza with airstrikes.

In a roughly four-minute statement on Thursday afternoon, President Joe Biden lauded the cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel on Thursday in his first public remarks about the recent violence.

“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.

Biden added that over the 11 days of fighting, he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu six times, and also spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as well as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. The President also promised aid to Gaza for its reconstruction efforts and did not take questions.

At least 232 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting began on May 10, including 65 children and 39 women, according to Reuters. Nearly 2,000 people in Gaza were injured, and the UN said about 58,000 were displaced. At least 12 people in Israel were also killed, including two children and a soldier.

Shortly after the cease-fire agreement was announced, with time still left until the truce was set to go into effect, the fighting continued, according to Reuters. Sirens indicated that rockets were being fired toward southern Israel, and a Reuters reporter heard an airstrike in Gaza.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in a tweet on Thursday said: “The defense establishment continues its readiness to protect Israeli citizens and the security forces and the IDF are deployed in the field, in all formations, in various sectors, in defense and in attack. The reality on the ground will determine the continuation of operations.”

Human-rights groups have accused both parties of committing what could amount to war crimes with their fighting tactics.

The renewed violence was catalyzed by an array of complex factors, with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories at the heart of the tensions. Top human-rights groups have denounced Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as a form of apartheid. More recently, an effort to push Palestinians out of east Jerusalem exacerbated the contentious dynamic. An Israeli police raid on Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, was also one of the more immediate causes of the violence.

The fighting in the Middle East exposed a growing rift in the Democratic Party over US-Israel relations, and President Joe Biden faced an onslaught of criticism over his approach to the flare-up in the conflict. Biden’s support for Israel amid allegations of human-rights violations made him a target of progressive backlash.

The Biden administration was also criticized by Democrats in Washington, DC, over its passive approach to a cease-fire as other countries urged for a swift cessation of hostilities.