What happened: A 2:00am ceasefire appears to be holding between Israel and Hamas following 11 days of intense rocket fire and retaliatory airstrikes.
- Yesterday evening the Israeli Security Cabinet unanimously approved the recommendation of the security establishment to accept the Egyptian initiative for an unconditional bilateral ceasefire.
- Heavy rocket barrages were intermittently fired from the Gaza Strip toward the periphery towns before the ceasefire went into force.
- This morning the IDF announced it was removing most restrictions on movement in all parts of the country, including Gaza border towns. As a precaution, schools will stay shut today in southern and central Israel.
- IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said that prior to the start of the ceasefire, the military passed a message to Hamas that if it conducted a large-scale rocket attack by Hamas on central Israel, the IDF would retaliate with a massive airstrike on dozens of targets. However, no final barrage came.
- Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi spoke to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last night and thanked him for Washington’s “uncompromising support” for Israel during the fighting. US President Joe Biden thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the arrival of the ceasefire in last night’s phone call and pledged to replenish the stockpile of interceptor missiles for the Iron Dome system.
- Biden said the US would work with the UN and other international organisations to “provide rapid humanitarian assistance” for the people of Gaza. “We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas … in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal,” Biden said.
- Deputy Hamas leader in Gaza Khalil al-Hayya has called the latest escalation a victory that he dedicated to the Palestinian people. He pledged that Hamas would rebuild the ruins in the Gaza Strip.
- Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) issued a statement saying it is committed to the ceasefire so long as Israel upholds it. Victory parades are planned to be held in the Gaza Strip this afternoon.
- Both UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Ra’ab tweeted: “Welcome news of a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza. All sides must work to make the ceasefire durable and end the unacceptable cycle of violence and loss of civilian life. UK continues to support efforts to bring about peace.”
Context: Around 4,400 rockets were fired by Palestinian terror groups at Israeli cities, communities, while over six hundred landed inside the Gaza Strip. The IDF says 90 per cent of the rockets aimed at populated areas in Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defence system.
- 12 people were killed in Israel, including nine Israelis and three foreign workers — two from Thailand, one from India. Two of the fatalities died of injuries sustained during a rush to a bomb shelter, while the rest died from rocket impact or shrapnel. Additionally, over 350 people were injured.
- The IDF says it destroyed more than 100 kilometres of terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip during the past 11 days of fighting and killed some 225 Hamas and PIJ members, including 25 senior commanders.
- The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says the death toll in Gaza is 232, including more than 66 minors, and more than 1,600 injured.
- The IDF says it destroyed 230 ground-to-ground rocket launchers and 70 multi-barrelled rocket launches and struck a “serious blow” to Hamas and PIJ’s rocket production capabilities.
- The IDF also destroyed dozens of facilities used by Hamas’s military wing, as well as several buildings used by the terror group in its day-to-day running of the Gaza Strip. This included 10 government offices, 11 interior ministry branches and five banks, “which managed terrorist money,” the IDF says.
- The IDF killed several senior Hamas and PIJ commanders, including the brigade commander of Gaza City, the commander of the Northern Sector and the Gaza City Division Commander of PIJ, the head of Hamas’s cyber division, the head of the development and projects division, the head of the engineering department for manufacturing weapons, and other senior officials.
- On the defensive side, the military thwarted a number of attempted underground raids, destroyed dozens of anti-tank guided missile teams, and intercepted seven drone attacks and two naval attacks.
- There has been some criticism in Israel over the ceasefire decision. New Hope party leader Gideon Saar called the unconditional ceasefire “embarrassing,” adding that “with the best intelligence and air force in the world, Netanyahu managed to get from Hamas a “ceasefire with no conditions’”.
- Opposition leader Yair Lapid, who is currently tasked with forming a government but whose chances have been diminished, tweeted that “the military succeeded in the tasks it was given, the government failed”.
Looking ahead: The Egyptian role will be crucial in maintaining quiet. Egypt’s President al-Sisi has dispatched two security delegations into Gaza to work towards upholding the ceasefire. Their presence in Gaza will signal both side’s intention to end the fighting.
- Egypt has also pledged $500 million for reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip, saying that specialist Egyptian firms would contribute to the rebuilding effort.
- Israel will likely want assurances and more robust verification mechanism in place that will ensure any funds to Gaza will not be diverted towards rearmament.
- Secretary Blinken will reportedly visit Israel and a few other countries in the region soon, where he will speak with senior Israeli, Palestinian and other officials about rebuilding the Gaza Strip.