Israel-Gaza ceasefire holds despite Jerusalem clash

A ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip appeared to be holding hours after coming into effect.

It began early on Friday, bringing to an end 11 days of fighting in which more than 250 people were killed, most of them in Gaza.

Both Israel and Hamas claimed victory in the conflict.

Fresh clashes broke out at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday, testing the truce.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP news agency that Palestinians had thrown stones at officers, and that “riot” suppressing measures had been taken in response.

But the ceasefire seemed to be holding on Friday night. Israel has temporarily opened a crossing into Gaza, allowing food, fuel and medicine into the territory. The country has also lifted emergency restrictions inside its own borders.

Live: Read the latest reports following the truce
In pictures: The destruction in Gaza and Israel

The fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza began on 10 May after weeks of rising Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem that culminated in clashes at al-Aqsa, a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas began firing rockets after warning Israel to withdraw from the site, triggering retaliatory air strikes.

At least 243 people, including more than 100 women and children, were killed in Gaza, according to its health ministry. Israel has said it killed at least 225 militants during the fighting. Hamas has not given casualty figures for fighters.

In Israel 12 people, including two children, were killed, its medical service says.

The Israel-Palestinian conflict explained
Life in the Gaza Strip

The Israeli military says more than 4,300 rockets were fired towards its territory by militants and that it struck more than 1,000 militant targets in Gaza.
Adi Vaizel, looks at the damage caused to the kitchen of his house after it was hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Stripimage copyrightReuters
image captionAn Israeli man inspects damage in the kitchen of his house
A Palestinian woman is kissed by her son after returning to their destroyed house following Israel- Hamas truce, in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2021.image copyrightReuters
image captionA mother and son embrace in their ruined home in Beit Hanoun, Gaza
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Analysis box by Tom Bateman, Middle East correspondent
A countdown to the next conflict?

Gaza’s streets are bursting back into life with the truce only hours old.

It’s the first time in nearly a fortnight people have been able to go outside in relative safety.

Entire families step over rubble and children tiptoe through smashed glass.

They look up at wrecked buildings but seem to take it in their stride. Perhaps seeing the aftermath is easy compared with the terrifying experience of living through the airstrikes themselves.

On one street in the heart of downtown Gaza City is the remnants of al-Sharouq building. Its name means sunrise. It lies in charred ruins. The block was the third high-rise bombed by Israel which said militants used it.

A car drives past and a child in a keffiyeh – a Palestinian headscarf – stands out of the sunroof with his fingers in a victory sign.

Hamas is hailing its “defence of Jerusalem”. Israel says its airstrikes have set the group back strategically. People here are welcoming calm, but know it probably just means a countdown to the next inevitable conflict.
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What have the two sides said about the truce?

The Israeli Political Security Cabinet said on Thursday night it had “unanimously accepted the recommendation” for a ceasefire.

“The political leaders emphasised that the reality on the ground will determine the future of the campaign,” it said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced criticism from some in Israel who said he had halted the conflict too soon. The mayors of Sderot and Ashkelon – two of the Israeli towns hardest hit by rockets from Gaza – were among those to voice their disappointment, saying Hamas should have been eliminated.

At a news conference on Friday, the prime minister said Israel had “exacted a heavy price from Hamas”.

“Not everything is known to the public yet, nor to Hamas, but the full range of achievements will be revealed over time,” he said.

The children who have died in the conflict
Why is Gaza blurry on Google Maps?

A Hamas official told the Associated Press news agency the ceasefire announced by Israel amounted to a “victory” for the Palestinian people.

This view was shared by people celebrating on the streets of Gaza. “This is the day of victory, the day of freedom, and it is the most beautiful day that we’ve experienced,” one said.
media captionPalestinians took to the streets to celebrate the ceasefire

Top Hamas political leader Ismail Haniya told reporters on Friday that the fighting had “defeated the illusions of negotiations, and described resistance as the “best strategic choice for liberation”.

“We, as a movement and movement’s leadership, with all our people and the good people of this nation and the world, will rebuild Gaza,” he added.

Basem Naim, from the Hamas Council on International Relations, told the BBC he was sceptical about whether the truce would last “without justice for Palestinians, without stopping the Israeli aggression and Israeli atrocities”.

A member of Hamas’s political bureau, Izzat al-Reshiq, issued a warning to Israel.

“It’s true that the battle ends today but Netanyahu and the whole world should know that our finger is on the trigger and we will continue to ramp up the capabilities of this resistance,” he told Reuters.
What position did the US take?

President Joe Biden said the ceasefire had brought a “genuine opportunity” for progress, and commended Mr Netanyahu in a phone call after the agreement was announced.

He said the US – Israel’s closest and most important ally – fully supported the country’s “right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks”.

Anthony Zurcher: The Democrats’ ‘tectonic’ shift on the conflict

He also praised Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi for brokering the ceasefire, before turning to the human cost of the conflict.

“I send my sincere condolences to all the families, Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost loved ones and my hope for a full recovery for the wounded,” he said.
Map showing Israel and the Gaza Strip
Presentational white space

The president said the US remained committed to working with the UN in providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza and in reconstruction efforts in the enclave. He added that this would be done “in full partnership” with the Palestinian Authority, which is run by Hamas’s rival, Mahmoud Abbas, and based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Egypt’s president said he had received a phone call from Mr Biden with “utter happiness”, adding that they had “exchanged visions around reaching a formula that would calm the current conflict between Israel and Gaza”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also welcomed the ceasefire, but said both sides must now find a “durable solution” to the conflict.
Timeline: How the violence escalated

The worst violence in years between Israel and the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip has seen dozens killed. It follows a month of spiralling tensions before open conflict broke out. Here is what happened in the lead-up to the fighting.

13 April
Israeli police officers detain a young Palestinian man at the Damascus Gate
Image caption Israeli police officers detain a young Palestinian man at the Damascus Gate Image copyright by Getty Images

Clashes erupt in East Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israeli police.

Palestinians are angry over barriers which had been placed outside the Damascus Gate entrance to the Jerusalem‘s Old City preventing them from gathering there after prayers at the Old City’s al-Aqsa Mosque on what is the first night of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Palestinian discontent had been stoked earlier in the day when President Mahmoud Abbas called off planned elections, implicitly blaming Israel over voting arrangements for Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Hamas – Mr Abbas’ Islamist rivals who control Gaza and were running in the elections – react angrily to the postponement.

Violence around Damascus Gate and elsewhere in East Jerusalem continues nightly.

15-16 April

Rockets are fired from Gaza at Israel, which responds with air strikes after a relative period of calm between Israel and the Palestinian enclave.

19 April

Clashes spread to the mixed Arab-Jewish port city of Jaffa, next to Tel Aviv.

20 April

In Jerusalem, Jewish youths, angry over a spate of filmed assaults by Palestinians on Orthodox Jews posted on the TikTok video-sharing app, attack Arabs and chant anti-Arab slogans.

23 April
Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians outside the Damascus Gate
Image caption Israeli security forces clash with Palestinians outside the Damascus Gate Image copyright by Getty Images

Hundreds of ultra-nationalist Jews shouting “Death to Arabs” march towards Damascus Gate in protest at the Arab assaults on Jews. Clashes erupt at the site between Palestinians and police trying to separate the two groups, injuring dozens of people.

Violence between Arabs and Jews spreads to other parts of the city.

24 April

Militants fire dozens of rockets at Israel from Gaza, drawing retaliatory air strikes.

2 May

President Abbas’ Fatah faction and Hamas condemn the looming threatened eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah district of East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers ahead of a planned court hearing. Hamas calls on Arabs to form “human shields of resistance” there.

In the days that follow, police and protesters repeatedly clash at the site as it becomes a focal point for Palestinian anger.

4 May

Militants in Gaza begin sending incendiary balloons into Israel over successive days, causing dozens of fires.

7 May

Two Palestinian gunmen are shot dead and a third is wounded after opening fire on Israeli security forces in the northern West Bank. Israeli authorities say the group planned to carry out a “major attack” in Israel.
The al-Aqsa mosque has been a frequent flashpoint for violence
Image caption The al-Aqsa mosque has been a frequent flashpoint for violence Image copyright by Getty Images

Later on after Friday prayers – the last of Ramadan – major clashes erupt at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, injuring more than 200 people. Israel’s police force says it used “riot dispersal means”, firing rubber bullets and stun grenades after officers came under a hail of stones and bottles.

8 May

A second night of violence erupts in East Jerusalem after tens of thousands of worshippers prayed at the al-Aqsa mosque for Laylat al-Qadr, the holiest night of Ramadan.

Police and protesters clash at Damascus Gate, with police using water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas against crowds of Palestinians, some throwing stones.

More than 120 Palestinians and some 17 police are injured.

9 May

Israel’s Supreme Court postpones the hearing on the Sheikh Jarrah case following calls to delay it because of the growing unrest. Tensions remain high though and more clashes take place between Israeli police and Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and at Damascus Gate.

10 May

Early morning clashes break out between police and Palestinians at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, where crowds throw stones and officers fire stun grenades.

Palestinian anger has been inflamed by an annual Jerusalem Day march planned for later in the day by hundreds of Israeli nationalists to celebrate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.

The march is due to pass through predominantly Arab parts of the Old City in what is seen by Palestinians as a deliberate provocation. It is rerouted at the 11th hour, but the atmosphere remains volatile with more than 300 Palestinians and some 21 police injured in the violence at the holy site.

Hamas issues an ultimatum to Israel to “withdraw its soldiers… from the blessed al-Aqsa mosque and Sheikh Jarrah” by 18:00. When the deadline passes without an Israeli response, rockets are fired towards Jerusalem for the first time in years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the group has “crossed a red line” and Israel retaliates with air strikes, killing three Hamas fighters.

A continuing exchange of rocket-fire and air strikes quickly escalates into the fiercest hostilities between the two sides since they fought a war in 2014.

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