Israel’s security cabinet approves unilateral cease-fire in Gaza, Israeli media reports

An Israeli artillery unit fires toward targets in Gaza Strip, at the Israeli Gaza border, on May 18, 2021.

Israeli media say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet has approved a unilateral cease-fire to halt an 11-day military operation in the Gaza Strip.

It was not immediately clear when the truce was to take effect. The public broadcaster Kan said the fighting was to halt immediately, while other TV channels said it would go into effect at 2 a.m.

There was no immediate reaction from Hamas.

The truce came a day after President Joe Biden pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to de-escalate the conflict. Biden’s appeal to Netanyahu reportedly strengthened Egypt’s efforts to negotiate a ceasefire.

The U.S. president quietly ramped up pressure on Israel amid mounting international alarm over the rising death toll and growing demands from Democrats in Congress for a cease-fire.

The violence wreaked far more devastation in Gaza than in Israel, with an estimated 58,000 Palestinians displaced from their homes and untold damage to the territory’s infrastructure, which was already dilapidated by a 14-year blockade.

Israeli attacks damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, according to the World Health Organization said. WHO officials also said the central COVID-19 testing lab in Gaza City was almost totally destroyed, and the violence caused “severe restrictions” on the delivery of medical supplies.

At least 227 Palestinians were killed, including 64 children and 38 women, and another 1,620 people have been wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians.

In Israel, 12 people, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier, have been killed.

The fighting between Israel and Hamas began on May 10, when the militant group fired rockets toward Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police.

Among the triggers for the violence: an effort by Jewish settlers to evict Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem, followed by confrontations between Israeli policy and Palestinian protesters near at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a site sacred to Jews and Muslims.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, fired thousands of rockets at civilian targets in Israel. The stream of rocket shower sent many Israelis scrambling to safety in bomb shelters, although the vast majority of the weapons were intercepted by Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome missile defense system.

Israel responded with its own fusillade of missiles aimed at degrading Hamas’ military capability and killing its leaders. Gaza is home to approximately two million Palestinians.

More:

Biden tells Netanyahu he expects ‘a significant de-escalation today’ with path toward cease-fire

‘Every incendiary ingredient imaginable’: Here’s what sparked worst Mideast violence since 2014

Key players in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and why peace remains elusive in Gaza

Biden has yet to reverse many of Trump’s pro-Israel policies he labeled ‘destructive’

Contributing: Associated Press

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