Israel Approves Cease-Fire Agreement, Likely Ending 11-Day Conflict With Hamas

Israel approved a cease-fire agreement that will likely end the violent 11-day conflict with Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced Thursday.

Netanyahu's Security Cabinet gave a green light to the cease-fire after accepting an Egyptian proposal. An anonymous Security Cabinet official said the end to violence would occur at 2 a.m., the Associated Press reported.

"The political leaders emphasized that the reality on the ground will be that which determines the future of the campaign," the statement from Netanyahu's office said. Israeli senior defense officials asserted "great accomplishments" were achieved in their military operation against Hamas before recommending to accept the Egyptian proposal.

A Hamas official reacted to the declared cease-fire and said it was "a victory to the Palestinian people," and a loss for Netanyahu. Hamas militants will remain alert until mediators to the conflict reach out, Ali Barakeh, a member of Hamas' Arab and Islamic relations bureau, said to the Associated Press.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Buildings Damaged in Gaza City
Palestinians inspect damage to buildings in Gaza City on May 20, 2021 in Gaza City, Gaza. Israel has just approved a unilateral cease-fire after 11 days of escalating violence with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Fatima Shbair/Getty Images

Israel's 11-day war against Hamas militants caused widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip and brought life in much of Israel to a standstill.

Netanyahu's office announced the cease-fire after a late-night meeting of his Security Cabinet.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz wrote on Twitter that "the reality in the field will determine the continuation of operations."

If the cease-fire does take effect at 2 a.m., it would be roughly three hours after the announcement. The Security Cabinet official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the closed-door talks.

Once Hamas hears from mediators, the group's leadership will hold discussions and make an announcement, said Barakeh.

Shortly after the announcement, air-raid sirens indicating incoming rocket fire sounded in southern Israel.

The agreement would close the heaviest round of fighting between the bitter enemies since a 50-day war in 2014, and once again there was no clear winner. Israel inflicted heavy damage on Hamas but was unable to prevent the rocket fire that has disrupted life for millions of Israelis for more than a decade.

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.

Israel launched hundreds of airstrikes during the operation, targeting what it said was Hamas' military infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network. Hamas and other militant groups embedded in residential areas have fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities, with hundreds falling short and most of the rest intercepted.

At least 230 Palestinians were killed, including 65 children and 39 women, with 1,710 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians.

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.

Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier, were killed.

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.

Rockets Headed Towards Israel From Gaza Strip
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, in Gaza City, Thursday, May 20, 2021. Hatem Moussa/AP Photo