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Fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas continues into second day

A fragile ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants held in the Gaza Strip today following a devastating 11-day conflict which claimed the lives of 270 people.

Thousands of Palestinians returned home to scenes of devastation yesterday as Egyptian mediators attempted to secure a longer-term calm between the two sides.

The United Nations has rushed to supply Gaza with food, Covid vaccines and other medical supplies in emergency aid amid the ceasefire, which came into effect at 2am on Friday.

A total of 248 Palestinians are understood to have died during the clashes, while 13 people died in Israel. Among them are 66 children.    

Officials believe it will cost tens of millions to reconstruct the area following devastating air strikes which struck the densely-populated area over an 11-day period.  

Egypt sent a delegation to Israel yesterday to discuss ways of firming up the ceasefire, which faced its first test last night when fresh clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians broke out around Temple Mount.

The delegates have since been shuttling between Israel and Gaza, with talks expected to continue today. 

Sources say the US Secretary of State will visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank on Wednesday and Thursday, hoping to build on the ceasefire mediated with US support. 

A Palestinian child sits amid the rubble of a destroyed house after a ceasefire in the Gaze Strip

A Palestinian policeman walks on the rubble of Arafat City, Gaza's police headquarters in Gaza City, today

A Palestinian policeman walks on the rubble of Arafat City, Gaza’s police headquarters in Gaza City, today

A Palestinian family have breakfast near their destroyed house which was hit by Israeli bombing in Gaza City

A Palestinian family have breakfast near their destroyed house which was hit by Israeli bombing in Gaza City

Thousands of Palestinians returned home to scenes of devastation yesterday as Egyptian mediators attempted to secure a longer-term calm between the two sides

Thousands of Palestinians returned home to scenes of devastation yesterday as Egyptian mediators attempted to secure a longer-term calm between the two sides

A Palestinian woman walks past a dsetroyed building in the al-Rimal commercial district in Gaza City

 A Palestinian woman walks past a dsetroyed building in the al-Rimal commercial district in Gaza City

Israeli police fired tear gas at Palestinians attending Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque who hurled rocks in response, following a ‘victory’ parade through Jerusalem in which they chanted pro-Hamas slogans. 

Meanwhile, celebrations in the West Bank also turned into violent protests with Israeli security forces firing teargas at Palestinians near Bethlehem.  

But despite the clashes the truce held through to Saturday morning, with no rocket or bombing attacks reported.

Both sides have declared victory and threatened to quickly resume hostilities if the situation deteriorates again – with Benjamin Netanyahu saying he is ready to respond ‘with a new level of force’.

A total of 248 Palestinians are understood to have died during the clashes, while 13 people died in Israel. Among them are 66 children

A total of 248 Palestinians are understood to have died during the clashes, while 13 people died in Israel. Among them are 66 children

Palestinians sit among the rubble of their destroyed homes during the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants

Palestinians sit among the rubble of their destroyed homes during the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants

A Palestinian shop owner sits amongst the ruins of his store in the al-Rimal commercial district in Gaza City today

A Palestinian shop owner sits amongst the ruins of his store in the al-Rimal commercial district in Gaza City today

Palestinian fishermen mend their nets before setting to sea at the main port in Gaza City

Palestinian fishermen mend their nets before setting to sea at the main port in Gaza City

Officials believe it will cost tens of millions to reconstruct the area following devastating air strikes which struck the densely-populated area over an 11-day period

Officials believe it will cost tens of millions to reconstruct the area following devastating air strikes which struck the densely-populated area over an 11-day period

Meanwhile Hamas said ‘our finger is on the trigger’ if Israel crosses a ‘red line’, pointing to violence around Al-Aqsa mosque as an example.

Netanyahu is facing criticism from his right-wing base that fighting with Hamas was ended too early, before the IDF was able to take out any of its top targets in Hamas’s leadership.

But the Israeli Prime Minister hit back in a speech, saying Hamas had paid ‘a heavy price’ while claiming 200 fighters had been killed in Israeli airstrikes and shelling that had also destroyed 62 miles of tunnels and severely limited the group’s abilities to launch rocket attacks.

He said Israel had done ‘daring and new things, and this without being dragged into unnecessary adventures.’ He added that Israeli forces had caused ‘maximum damage to Hamas with a minimum of casualties in Israel.’   

In the meantime, the truce provides both side with an opportunity to count the cost. 

Palestinians have taken to the streets to celebrate the ceasefire with a child sitting on the roof of a car brandishing a gun

Palestinians have taken to the streets to celebrate the ceasefire with a child sitting on the roof of a car brandishing a gun

Both sides have declared victory and threatened to quickly resume hostilities if the situation deteriorates again - with Benjamin Netanyahu saying he is ready to respond 'with a new level of force'

Both sides have declared victory and threatened to quickly resume hostilities if the situation deteriorates again – with Benjamin Netanyahu saying he is ready to respond ‘with a new level of force’

Thousands of people attended funerals of Palestinians who died during the past few days of the conflict between Hamas and Israel

Thousands of people attended funerals of Palestinians who died during the past few days of the conflict between Hamas and Israel 

Mourners carried the bodies of members of teh Ezz-Al Din Al-Qassam Brigades who died during the bombing of a tunnel

Mourners carried the bodies of members of teh Ezz-Al Din Al-Qassam Brigades who died during the bombing of a tunnel

The flash-points provided an early test for a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas which only came into force at 2am on Friday

The flash-points provided an early test for a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas which only came into force at 2am on Friday

In Gaza, the health authority said 248 Palestinians including 66 children have been killed, with more than 1,900 injured including 560 children. The WHO put the number of injured significantly higher, at 8,600.

In addition, another 25 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank, the Palestinian health authority said, with Israel saying five were shot after attempting to ram or stab Israeli soldiers at checkpoints. 

Hamas says a total of 1,447 homes including 205 residential buildings have been hit or completely destroyed, while government buildings, water pipe, electrical cables, generators, and mosques have also been damaged. 

Israel says 13 people were killed in its territory, including one Israeli child, one Arab Israeli teenager and her father, one Indian, and two Thai nationals. 357 people have been wounded by rockets.

These satellite images show the damage caused during the attacks in Gaza City following the Israeli attacks

These satellite images show the damage caused during the attacks in Gaza City following the Israeli attacks 

Later images showed some of the larger buildings in the area destroyed following a series of Israeli air strikes

Later images showed some of the larger buildings in the area destroyed following a series of Israeli air strikes

Israeli police fire tear gas at crowds of Palestinians gathered on Temple Mount at Al-Aqsa mosque for Friday prayers, following a 'victory' parade through the city to celebrate the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel

Israeli police fire tear gas at crowds of Palestinians gathered on Temple Mount at Al-Aqsa mosque for Friday prayers, following a ‘victory’ parade through the city to celebrate the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel

Police were also pictured firing tear gas at demonstrators near Bethlehem as impromptu celebrations turned to violence

Police were also pictured firing tear gas at demonstrators near Bethlehem as impromptu celebrations turned to violence 

Israeli security forces stand in position during clashes with Palestinians at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque

Israeli security forces stand in position during clashes with Palestinians at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque

Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount

Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount

Israeli security forces and Palestinian Muslim worshippers clash in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound

Israeli security forces and Palestinian Muslim worshippers clash in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound

Fresh clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police broke out at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Friday, in the latest unrest at the sensitive religious site

Fresh clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police broke out at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Friday, in the latest unrest at the sensitive religious site

Israeli security forces and Palestinian Muslim worshippers clash in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound

Israeli security forces and Palestinian Muslim worshippers clash in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound

Of 4,070 rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups towards Israel, around 90 percent were intercepted by Israel’s air defence system, the military says.

2,061 claims received for homes hit by rockets and 1,367 more for cars in southern and central Israel, according to the Israel Tax Authority, which deals with compensations. 

Israel said its airstrikes destroyed more than 60 miles of Hamas tunnels, along with rocket batteries and a ‘suicide submarine’. It also shot down drones and its Iron Dome defences destroyed thousands of Hamas missiles. 

Like the three previous conflicts between the bitter enemies, the latest round of fighting ended inconclusively.

Netanyahu has been keen to declare victory, but is facing accusations from his base that the operation was ended too soon, before the IDF had taken out any of its top targets among Hamas’s leadership.

Meanwhile Hamas failed to cause major damage to Israel due to its Irone Dome defences which took down thousands of rockets, but was able to keep up the fire despite nightly bombing raids by the IDF.

Fresh clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police broke out at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Friday, in the latest unrest at the sensitive religious site

Fresh clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police broke out at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Friday, in the latest unrest at the sensitive religious site

Israeli security forces and Palestinian Muslim worshippers clash in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound

Israeli security forces and Palestinian Muslim worshippers clash in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound

Palestinians react as Israeli security forces throw stun grenade during clashes at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque

Palestinians react as Israeli security forces throw stun grenade during clashes at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque

Israeli security forces and Palestinian Muslim worshippers clash in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound

Israeli security forces and Palestinian Muslim worshippers clash in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound

Spontaneous celebrations that broke out in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday threatened to turn into flash-points as the day wore on, with police firing tear gas at Palestinians near Bethlehem

Spontaneous celebrations that broke out in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday threatened to turn into flash-points as the day wore on, with police firing tear gas at Palestinians near Bethlehem

Photojournalists and Palestinian demonstrators run away from tear gas fired by Israeli forces in Bethlehem

Photojournalists and Palestinian demonstrators run away from tear gas fired by Israeli forces in Bethlehem

The decision to call a ceasefire came mostly due to international pressure, particularly from the US and France. 

President Joe Biden on Thursday hailed the impending cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and Hamas, saying he sees a ‘genuine opportunity’ toward the larger goal of building a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Biden credited the Egyptian government with playing a crucial role in brokering the cease-fire and said he and top White House aides were intensely involved in an ‘hour by hour’ effort to stop the bloodletting. 

‘I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,’ Biden said. ‘My administration will continue our quiet, relentless diplomacy toward that.’

Britain welcomed a ceasefire announced by Israel and Hamas and called on all sides to work to make it durable and ‘end the unacceptable cycle of violence’ in the region.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted a call for leaders in the region to ‘find a durable solution’ that ‘prevents terrorism, ends the cycle of violence and delivers a sustainable and just peace’. 

‘All sides must work to make the ceasefire durable and end the unacceptable cycle of violence and loss of civilian life,’ UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter, adding that Britain supports ‘efforts to bring about peace’.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in a tweet early on Friday thanked U.S. President Joe Biden for his role in making the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire in Gaza succeed. 

Muslim worshippers wave thew Palestinian and the Hamas flag during clashes with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound

Muslim worshippers wave thew Palestinian and the Hamas flag during clashes with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound

Muslim worshippers gather in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound ahead of Friday prayers

Muslim worshippers gather in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound ahead of Friday prayers

Fresh clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police broke out at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Friday, in the latest unrest at the sensitive religious site

Fresh clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police broke out at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Friday, in the latest unrest at the sensitive religious site

Israeli police accused Palestinians of instigating the violence by throwing rocks, and said officers fired tear gas back

Israeli police accused Palestinians of instigating the violence by throwing rocks, and said officers fired tear gas back

Palestinians hold a 'victory' parade at the Jerusalem compound which houses both the Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock

Palestinians hold a ‘victory’ parade at the Jerusalem compound which houses both the Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock

Palestinian Muslim worshippers gather in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound for Friday prayers

Palestinian Muslim worshippers gather in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound for Friday prayers

Sisi said he and President Biden both saw the urgency of managing the conflict between all parties with diplomacy.

Egyptian efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians went into effect early on Friday.

Turkey has welcomed the cease-fire in Gaza but is also calling for a two-state solution to ensure a permanent end to the conflict.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement on Friday said Turkey expects the international community, and especially the U.N. Security Council, ‘to act in order to bring a complete end to the persecution’ of Palestinians.

The ministry said: ‘In order to prevent the recurrence of the pain and tears in Palestine, it is necessary to ensure that Israel is made accountable internationally for its crimes and lifts the inhumane blockade imposed on Gaza.’

Israeli security forces and Palestinian Muslim worshippers clash in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound

Israeli security forces and Palestinian Muslim worshippers clash in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound

Israeli security forces detain a man at the entrance of Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound

Israeli security forces detain a man at the entrance of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound

Israeli security forces are pictured in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam

Israeli security forces are pictured in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam

Palestinian journalist Alaa Shimali clears debris of his house, destroyed in Israeli attacks, in Gaza City as people pick up the pieces following 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas

Palestinian journalist Alaa Shimali clears debris of his house, destroyed in Israeli attacks, in Gaza City as people pick up the pieces following 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas

Palestinians who have returned to their neighbourhood, assess the damage in their home hit by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City, after a ceasefire brokered by Egypt between Israel and Hamas came into effect

Palestinians who have returned to their neighbourhood, assess the damage in their home hit by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City, after a ceasefire brokered by Egypt between Israel and Hamas came into effect

A Palestinian family eat meal near their destroyed house after "mutual and simultaneous" cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas reached with Egypt mediation took effect at 2am

A Palestinian family eat meal near their destroyed house after ‘mutual and simultaneous’ cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas reached with Egypt mediation took effect at 2am

Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory following the fighting on Friday, saying Hamas had paid a 'heavy price' for its attacks on Israel and that he would not hesitate to attack again with 'a new level of force'

Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory following the fighting on Friday, saying Hamas had paid a ‘heavy price’ for its attacks on Israel and that he would not hesitate to attack again with ‘a new level of force’

The statement also called for an end to the ‘Israeli occupation’ of Palestinian territories in order to achieve a lasting, fair and comprehensive solution, and added that Turkey would continue to support the Palestinians’ ‘just cause.’

Israel had launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says have targeted Hamas’ infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network.

Hamas and other militant groups embedded in residential areas have fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities, with hundreds falling short and most of the rest intercepted. 

PRESIDENT BIDEN WELCOMES CEASE-FIRE IN ISRAEL 

President Joe Biden on Thursday hailed the impending cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and Hamas, saying he sees a ‘genuine opportunity’ toward the larger goal of building a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Biden credited the Egyptian government with playing a crucial role in brokering the cease-fire and said he and top White House aides were intensely involved in an ‘hour by hour’ effort to stop the bloodletting.

‘I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,’ Biden said. ‘My administration will continue our quiet, relentless diplomacy toward that.’

The president spoke soon after Israel and Hamas announced a cease-fire would go into effect at 2 a.m. Friday, ending an 11-day war that caused widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip and brought life in much of Israel to a halt. The fighting killed at least 227 in Gaza and 12 in Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal after a late-night meeting of his Security Cabinet. Hamas quickly followed suit and said it would honor the deal.

Biden, who spoke to Netanyahu six times in the last 11 days, said Thursday the prime minister credited the Iron Dome missile defense system with limiting the death toll inside Israel. The system is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells. Biden said he assured Netanyahu that his administration would work to quickly restock the missile defense system.

Biden credited the Egyptian government with playing a crucial role in brokering the cease-fire and said he and top White House aides were intensely involved in an 'hour by hour' effort to stop the bloodletting

Biden credited the Egyptian government with playing a crucial role in brokering the cease-fire and said he and top White House aides were intensely involved in an ‘hour by hour’ effort to stop the bloodletting

The cease-fire was announced one day after Biden told Netanyahu in a telephone call that he expected ‘significant de-escalation’ of the fighting by day’s end, according to the White House. But the prime minister came right back with a public declaration that he was ‘determined to continue’ the Gaza operation ‘until its objective is achieved.’

Hours before the cease-fire agreement was reached, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Israelis had ‘achieved significant military objectives’ in their strikes intended to degrade Hamas military capabilities and reiterated that Biden expected the Israelis to start ‘winding down’ their operations.

‘We believe the Israelis have achieved significant military objectives that they laid out to achieve in relation to protecting their people and to responding to the thousands of rocket attacks from Hamas,’ Psaki said.

Biden, who studiously avoided extensive public comment about the Israeli military strikes through the 11-day conflict, was facing mounting pressure from fellow Democrats to speak out against the Israelis as the death toll climbed in Gaza and tens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced by the aerial bombardment.

Throughout the crisis, Biden, in carefully-worded statements and brief exchanges with reporters, underscored Israel’s right to defend itself. But as the death toll and suffering of innocent bystanders in Gaza spread, the position was becoming more difficult to sustain with his Democratic caucus and the international community.

On Tuesday, while in Michigan to visit a Ford facility, Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib confronted Biden on the Detroit airport tarmac and called on him to speak out forcefully against the Israeli strikes. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York introduced resolutions to block the sale of $735 million in military weaponry to Israel that’s already been approved by the Biden administration.

As the outside calls for Biden to speak more forcefully grew, Biden and top aides privately made the case to Israeli officials that time wasn’t on their side in the court of public opinion.

Administration officials pointed to Hezbollah’s stature rising in the region after their 34-day war with Israel in 2006 to make the case for limiting the time of the military action. Israeli officials pushed back that a slightly prolonged campaign to degrade Hamas’ military capabilities was necessary and in their interest, according a person familiar with the talks who was not authorized to discuss them publicly.

Hamas had sought to portray their rocket barrages as a defense of Jerusalem. Israeli officials made the case to the White House that Hamas’ message lost resonance as mob violence against Arabs in mixed Israeli cities, including Lod, was tamped down.

Biden, in his remarks Thursday, reiterated that United States continues to ‘fully support Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks’ by Hamas and other Gaza-based militants.

Biden also offered condolences for Palestinian lives lost during the conflict and vowed humanitarian aid would quickly flow through the Palestinian Authority, which is in control of the West Bank but not Gaza.

‘We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas … and in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal,’ Biden said.

Rocket attacks by Hamas and allied Islamic Jihad had resumed after an eight-hour pause on Thursday, as Israel continued shelling that it said aimed to destroy the factions’ military capabilities and deter them from future confrontation after the current conflict.

In a statement, Netanyahu’s office said the Security Cabinet unanimously approved the proposal after recommendations from the military chief of staff and other top defense officials. The statement boasted of ‘significant achievements in the operation, some of which are unprecedented’ and included a veiled threat against Hamas.

‘The political leaders emphasized that the reality on the ground will determine the future of the campaign,’ the statement said.

Taher Nounou, a Hamas official, confirmed the deal. ‘The Palestinian resistance will commit itself to this deal as long as the occupation is committed,’ he said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday he would be prepared to travel to the Middle East, as he headed home from an Arctic tour overshadowed by Israeli-Palestinian fighting.  

‘I am prepared at any time to go to Israel, to the Middle East, if that would serve the purpose of moving beyond the violence and helping to work on improving lives for Israelis and Palestinians alike,’ Blinken said at a press conference in Greenland.

He said that he had pushed for a ‘de-escalation on the path to a ceasefire’ in a phone call with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict had topped journalists’ questions at Blinken’s public appearances in Denmark and at the Arctic Council in Iceland, where he also met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

He spoke to leaders on both sides, as well as from Arab nations with influence over Hamas, from hotel rooms and the aeroplane in the scramble for a ceasefire.

Now ‘if there’s a good time’ to travel to the Middle East ‘that’s certainly something I intend to do,’ Blinken said without naming a date

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said reports of a move toward a ceasefire were ‘clearly encouraging’.

She said the US was trying ‘to do everything we can to bring an end to the conflict’.

Earlier, Israel had unleashed a new wave of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip as Hamas fired more rockets into Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he spoke to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi by phone on Thursday during a visit to Greenland, and reiterated the message that the United States expects to see a ‘de-escalation on the path to a ceasefire’ between Israel and the Palestinians.

Blinken said there was a deep and shared concern around the world for the deaths of Palestinians and Israelis and Washington’s goal remains to end the violence.

The public broadcaster Kan said the fighting was to halt immediately, while other TV channels said it would go into effect at 2am.

There was no immediate reaction from Hamas.  

It comes after Israel had unleashed a new wave of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip on Thursday and Hamas fired more rockets into Israel, despite growing signs that the sides were close to a cease-fire that would end 11 days of heavy fighting.

In an apparent sign of progress, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting of his Security Cabinet, where the issue of a cease-fire was expected to be debated.

An Egyptian official said Israel has informed his government, which is mediating a truce, that it intends to end its military operations in Gaza. Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing behind-the-scenes diplomacy, he said an announcement was expected following the Security Cabinet meeting.

The official spoke shortly after Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi talked by phone with President Joe Biden. The two leaders discussed ways to stop violence in the Palestinian Territories, el-Sissi’s office said.

In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said reports of a move toward a ceasefire were ‘clearly encouraging.’ She said the U.S. was trying ‘to do everything we can to bring an end to the conflict.’

With U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging an immediate cease-fire, a U.N. Mideast envoy was in the Gulf state of Qatar to help with efforts to restore calm, a diplomatic official said. 

Energy-rich Qatar often helps mediate between Israel and Hamas and has donated hundreds of millions of dollars for development and humanitarian projects in Gaza in recent years. 

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

Osama Hamdan, a top Hamas official based in Lebanon, also said he expected a cease-fire within the coming day.

Biden on Wednesday publicly pressed Netanyahu to wind down the operation. The Israeli leader initially pushed back, appearing determined to inflict maximum damage on Hamas in a war that could help save his political career. 

But by Thursday evening, Israeli media were reporting that a cease-fire agreement was expected to take effect by early Friday, perhaps sooner.

Despite the signs of progress, fighting continued into the evening, with Israeli airstrikes on targets in Gaza and Palestinian militants firing rockets toward Israeli cities. In past rounds of violence, fighting has picked up in the final hours, with each side trying to eke out a final achievement before a cease-fire went into effect.

Earlier Thursday, explosions shook Gaza City and orange flares lit up the pre-dawn sky, with bombing raids also reported in the central town of Deir al-Balah and the southern town of Khan Younis. 

As the sun rose, residents surveyed the rubble from at least five family homes destroyed in Khan Younis. Heavy airstrikes also hit a commercial thoroughfare in Gaza City.

The Israeli military said it struck at least three homes of Hamas commanders in Khan Younis and another in Rafah, targeting ‘military infrastructure,’ as well as a weapons storage unit at a home in Gaza City.

On Wednesday, Biden told Israel on Wednesday that he expected ‘a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire’ – but Netanyahu pushed back, saying he was ‘determined to continue this operation until its aim is met.’ 

It marked the first public rift between the two close allies since the fighting began and posed a difficult test of the U.S.-Israel relationship early in Biden’s presidency. 

Since the fighting began, Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated. 

Palestinians on a motorcycle pass by destroyed buildings in Gaza City as life returns to some form of normality

Palestinians on a motorcycle pass by destroyed buildings in Gaza City as life returns to some form of normality

A security officer directs vehicles as Palestinians return to their destroyed houses following 11 days of fighting

A security officer directs vehicles as Palestinians return to their destroyed houses following 11 days of fighting

A view of destroyed houses after "mutual and simultaneous" cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas reached with Egypt mediation took effect at 2am

A view of destroyed houses after ‘mutual and simultaneous’ cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas reached with Egypt mediation took effect at 2am

A Palestinian woman reacts as she stands on the debris of her destroyed house in Gaza City

A Palestinian woman reacts as she stands on the debris of her destroyed house in Gaza City

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.

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.

TIMELINE – Hamas and Israel: A history of confrontation 

1987 – Hamas is created at the start of the first Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Two years later, Hamas carries out its first attacks on Israeli military targets, including the kidnap and murder of two Israeli soldiers.

1993 – After years of violence, the first Oslo Accord, aimed at establishing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, is signed. Hamas opposes the peace process, and seeks to derail it with bus bombings and gun attacks in Israel.

2000 – Israel and the Palestinians fail to reach a final agreement in the peace process at a summit in the United States in July 2000. Two months later, Palestinian protests over a visit by Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon to Al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem – known to Jews as Temple Mount, because it was the site of ancient Jewish temples, and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary – develop into a Second Intifada.

2001-02 – Hamas carries out a series of suicide bombings in Israel, including killing 21 Israelis outside a Tel Aviv disco in June 2001, and 30 Jewish celebrants at a Passover seder dinner in Netanya in March 2022. Four months later, Hamasâs military commander Salah Shehadeh is killed in an Israeli air strike, and Israel starts a siege of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

March-April 2004 – Israeli air strikes kill Hamas co-founder and spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and co-founder and political leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, in Gaza within a month of each other. The Hamas leadership goes into hiding and the identity of Rantissi’s successor is kept secret.

Aug. 15, 2005 – Israeli forces start a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, captured from Egypt in the 1967 Middle East war, abandoning settlements and leaving the densely populated enclave under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

Jan. 25, 2006 – Hamas wins a majority of seats in a Palestinian legislative election. Israel and United States cut off aid to Palestinians because Hamas refuses to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

June 25, 2006 – Hamas militants capture Israeli conscript Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid, prompting Israeli air strikes and incursions. Shalit is finally freed over five years later in a prisoner exchange.

June 14, 2007 – Hamas takes over Gaza in a brief civil war, ousting Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank.

Dec 27, 2008 – Israel launches a 22-day military offensive in Gaza after Palestinians fire rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot. About 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis are reported killed before a ceasefire is agreed.

Nov 14, 2012 – Israel kills Hamas’s military chief of staff, Ahmad Jabari, and eight days of Palestinian militant rocket fire and Israeli air strikes follow.

July-August 2014 – The kidnap and killing of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas leads to a seven-week war in which more than 2,100 Palestinians are reported killed in Gaza and 73 Israelis are reported killed, 67 of them military.

March 2018 – Palestinian protests begin at Gaza’s border with Israel against its blockade of the enclave. Israeli troops open fire to keep them back. More than 170 Palestinians are reported killed in several months of protests, which also prompt fighting between Hamas and Israeli forces.

May 7, 2021 – After weeks of tension during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Israeli police clash with Palestinian protesters near Al-Aqsa Mosque over a legal case in which eight Palestinian families face losing their East Jerusalem homes to Jewish settlers.

May 10 – After a weekend of sporadic violence, hundreds of Palestinians are hurt in clashes with Israeli security forces at Al-Aqsa compound, Islam’s third holiest site. After demanding Israel withdraw its security forces from the compound, Hamas fires a barrage of rockets from Gaza into Israel. Israel hits back with air strikes on Gaza.

May 11 – The death toll mounts as the aerial bombardments continue. A 13-story residential building in Gaza collapses after being hit during an Israeli air strike. Palestinian militants launch rockets deep into Israel.

May 12 – The United States announces it will send an envoy to the region. Israel’s military kills a senior Hamas commander in Gaza during more hostilities.

May 13 – Israeli air strikes and militant rocket fire continue, and violence worsens in mixed communities of Jews and Arabs in Israel. Synagogues are attacked and clashes break out in some towns.

May 14 – Israel uses warplanes, tanks and artillery against a network of Palestinian militant tunnels under Gaza in an operation that is followed by more Palestinian rocket salvoes.

May 15 – An Israeli air strike destroys a 12-storey tower block that housed international news media organisations, while Palestinian militants fire rocket salvoes at Tel Aviv.

May 16 – Several homes are destroyed by an Israeli air strike on the densely populated enclave that Palestinian officials said killed 42 people, including 10 children, as rocket attacks on Israeli towns persist.

May 17 – Israeli missile attacks kill top Islamic Jihad commander Hussam Abu Harbeed and hit a seven-storey office building that the military said was used by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas. Rockets fired by the militants hit a synagogue in the Israeli town of Ashkelon and an apartment block in Ashdod.

May 18 – The United Nations humanitarian agency says nearly 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or badly damaged, including six hospitals and nine primary-care health centres. Around 52,000 have fled their homes, with most sheltering in U.N.-run schools.

May 19 – Israel says around 4,000 rockets have been launched at it from Gaza, most intercepted by missile defences and some 600 falling within the enclave. U.S. President Joe Biden urges both sides to de-escalate the violence.

May 20 – Both sides resume their attacks but ceasefire talks intensify. Israeli authorities say 12 people have been killed so far in Israel and that it has killed around 160 militants. Health officials in Gaza say 232 Palestinians have been killed, including 65 children, and more than 1,900 wounded.

May 20 – Hamas and the Israeli cabinet issue statements saying a truce has been agreed.

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