Israel, Hamas Both See Victories as Fighting Follows Gaza Ceasefire Agreement

Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement both saw victories in their recent hostilities as they announced an upcoming ceasefire that would halt a deadly 11-day conflict, even as some fighting continued in the final hours before calm was supposed to prevail.

In a statement sent to Newsweek on Thursday, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Israeli Security Cabinet had "unanimously accepted the recommendation of all security officials," including the directors of Israel Security Agency, Mossad and the National Security Council, "to accept the Egyptian initiative for a bilateral ceasefire without any pre-conditions to take effect at a time to be determined."

"The IDF Chief-of-Staff, the military and the head of the ISA briefed ministers on Israel's significant achievements in the operation, some of which are unprecedented," the statement said.

The announcement notably omitted the position of Netanyahu himself, who has, until now, suggested the comprehensive campaign of operations from land, air and sea against targets in Gaza would press on until objectives were completed. The statement also noted that the current decision was conditioned on how the situation evolved.

"The reality on the ground will determine the continuation of the campaign," the readout added.

A Hamas spokesperson who previously confirmed the ceasefire talks to Newsweek also issued a note of caution, noting that such a measure's success "depends on how much Israel is ready to respect the Palestinians' rights."

Abu Obeida, spokesperson for the group's military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, later confirmed the ceasefire and released a statement declaring victory.

"We were able, with the help of God, to humiliate the enemy and its army, whose leadership boasted of killing children and destroying residential towers," Abu Obeida said. "We fought in the resistance, the battle of the Sword of Jerusalem, in defense of Jerusalem with all honor, will and pride, on behalf of an entire nation."

The message warned that the militant units had "prepared a strike covering all of Palestine from Haifa to Ramon, but we responded to the ceasefire to monitor the enemy's behavior until 2 a.m. on Friday, and we suspended a large rocket strike that we prepared for the enemy."

The Palestinian Joint Operations Room, comprised of about a dozen Gaza-based groups including Hamas as well as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other groups, delivered a statement shortly after confirming that Abu Obeida's remarks were made on behalf of the entire coalition "and in harmony among its components."

Still, the IDF reported some sirens sounding near Israeli communities along the Gaza Strip following the announcement, though no damage or injuries were reported.

Later, Hamas Political Bureau member Khalil al-Hayya delivered a victory speech of his own.

"We have the right to rejoice, despite the pain, the wounds, the destroyed homes, and the martyrs," Hayya said. "Our victorious adult resistance and our united people declare victory over our enemy. We are victorious, Netanyahu, because our mujahideen are now strutting about the tunnels that you claimed you destroyed."

hamas, rockets, israel, gaza
Rockets are launched towards Israel from Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 20. Diplomatic efforts gathered pace for a ceasefire on the 11th day of deadly violence between Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza, as air strikes again hammered the enclave. MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images

As of the ceasefire announcement, the Gaza-based Palestinian Health Ministry had recorded 232 deaths, while the IDF said 12 were killed in Israel. Throughout the fighting, the IDF counted more than 4,300 rockets—many of which were said to have been intercepted or have fallen short—fired by Hamas and its allies toward Israel, which conducted at least hundreds of strikes.

News of a ceasefire came hours after the crisis was debated by the international community at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. The U.N. Security Council had previously attempted to adopt a statement on the matter, but a consensus was blocked by the U.S., which instead pursued direct diplomacy with Israels and Palestinians along with regional actors such as Egypt, Jordan and Qatar.

"Over the past two weeks, the United States has approached this crisis in Israel and Gaza with a singular focus: bringing an end to the conflict as quickly as possible," U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. "We have not been silent. In fact, I don't believe that there is any country working more urgently, and more fervently, toward peace. This is not a slight. And it is not silence. It's a fact."

Two recent calls in as many days this week between President Joe Biden and Netanyahu signaled an increasing urgency on the part of Washington as the U.S. leader "expressed his support for a ceasefire" on Monday and then "conveyed to the Prime Minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire" on Wednesday.

Following the ceasefire announcement on Thursday, Biden delivered brief remarks in which he said that Netanyahu had informed him "that Israel has agreed to a mutual unconditional ceasefire to begin in less than two hours" and that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi informed "that Hamas and the other groups in Gaza have also agreed."

He asserted Israel's "right to defend itself" and vowed to continue working with the U.N. and the Palestinian National Authority, "but not Hamas," which both the U.S. and Israeli consider a terrorist organization.

"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 end. I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress and I'm committed to working for it."

He added, "I pray that this continues."

The latest conflagration erupted amid heightened tensions as outrage over Israeli families attempting to evict Palestinians from Israel-occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah spilled over into demonstrations across the city, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli security forces stormed the holy compound, leading to an ultimatum and eventual rocket fire from the Gaza-based Hamas movement.

This is a developing news story. More information will be added as it becomes available.