An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas Islamist group has come into effect, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported on Wednesday evening, according to RIA Novosti.
Both sides praised the agreement, in line with which, Israel has to end hostilities and targeted killings in the Gaza Strip, and Hamas has to stop launching rockets into Israel. Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said Wednesday the ceasefire has been achieved starting at 7:00 p.m. GMT on Wednesday.
The IDF said it has completed objectives for its Operation Pillar of Defense against the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian enclave of 1.7 million that has been governed by Hamas since 2007. The operation started on November 14 with an airstrike that eliminated the head of the military wing of Hamas, Ahmed Jabari. The airstrike came after a reported surge in rocket attacks on Israeli border towns from Gaza.
“A short while ago, a ceasefire agreement regarding the fighting in the south, came into effect. Following eight days of operations, the IDF has accomplished its pre-determined objectives for Operation Pillar of Defense, and has inflicted severe damage to Hamas and its military capabilities,” the IDF said on its website.
“As a result of IDF operations, the command and control apparatus of Hamas was significantly struck,” it said, adding that "broad terrorist infrastructure, facilities and military bases" were also targeted and dozens of smuggling and explosive tunnels destroyed.
Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal called the truce deal a victory for Palestinians. In line with the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Gaza, all border crossing points linking the Palestinian enclave with the outside world have to be opened 24 hours since the ceasefire came into effect, which, according to Meshaal, means an end to Gaza’s blockade.
“Israel committed itself to lift blockade of the Gaza Strip and stop killings,” Meshaal said. “The latest Israeli aggression showed that resistance is the ideal choice for establishing a Palestinian state. The results we have achieved are a victory for all Palestinians and a victory for the Arab nation,” he said.
Before the ceasefire was agreed, at least 18 people were injured when an explosion hit a bus in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday. A spokesperson for Hamas said it welcomed the bombing as a "natural response" to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, but said it was not behind the attack.
Around 160 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's eight-day air and naval attack on Hamas-ruled Gaza, officials say. Gaza’s health ministry says many children are among the Palestinian dead.
Palestinian rockets hurtled toward Israeli towns and cities on Wednesday, but most were knocked down by the sophisticated Iron Dome air defense system. Israel says five people have been killed by Palestinian rockets in the last eight days and 240 have been injured.
The EU and UN welcomed the ceasefire.
Israel’s last invasion of Gaza, in 2008-2009, killed 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis died in the 22-day-long Operation Cast Lead.