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Hamas and Israel agree to ceasefire after an escalation of violence in Gaza

Hamas and Israel have agreed to an Egyptian mediated ceasefire negotiation following two days of escalated violence. 

The proposed ceasefire agreement offers to reduce Israel’s blockade of Gaza and open entry points through which people may travel into Israel. 

The current escalation in the conflict was sparked after Israel attempted a military raid on Gaza on Sunday which resulted in the deaths of seven Hamas fighters and one of their Lieutenant Colonels. In retaliation Hamas launched 400 rockets into Israel, a hundred of which were blocked by Israeli’s Iron Dome missile defense system. 

Israel in return bombed 100 sites including those used for civilian purposes. These include civilian buildings, the Al-Aqsa TV channel, the Al-Amal hotel, a Hamas-run television building and a building Israel claimed was used for military purposes but Palestinians say housed a kindergarten. Three large residential buildings in Gaza were also destroyed.

Initial reports reveal that in Gaza five people have been killed, two of whom were militants. On the Israeli side, in the city of Ashkelon, a 40-year old civilian was killed, who was revealed to be a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank residing in Israel. A further 20 Israelis were injured. 

Responding to this crisis, the UN envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace stated that “rockets must stop, restraint must be shown by all”. 

Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called the strikes "brutal" and “illegal”. 

Furthermore, the German Foreign Office condemned Israeli air strikes stating, “there can be no justification for this violence against innocent civilians”.

The ceasefire agreement came on Tuesday evening with Hamas alongside other militant organisations stating that they accepted a deal brokered by the UN and Egypt. Israel has not commented on this deal.

The current fighting came following a period of some ease in Gaza amid the blockade which has lasted for over eleven years. The blockade was enabled in 2005 when Israel withdrew its troops and settlers but maintained tight control over its land and sea borders, greatly reducing Gaza's economy. It has also severely restricted Palestinian movement inside and outside of Gaza. Egypt has also constrained residents movements through its border. 

The brokered deal is reported to include: 

  • A programme to reduce Israel’s blockade by 70 % so long as violent protests along the Israel-Gaza border cease
  • A promise to open up entry points to Gaza so that 5,000 Gazan Palestianians under the age of 40 will granted permits to work in Israel.
  • A extension of Gaza’s permitted fishing zone by 14 miles.
  • Palestinian authority will pay 80% for public sector workers in Gaza
  • Energy and Infrastructure projects will be launched which hope to employ 30,000 unemployed academics.

There has however been significant backlash with four Israeli ministers and two Bayit Yehudi ministers having opposed the ceasefire, including the Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Jerusalem Affairs Minister and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin. 

Responding to the ceasefire there was also a protest in Sderot were Israeli citizens voiced their discontent.

Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union, head of Israel’s opposition party, stated that the recent escalation of violence was “a colossal security failure by the right wing government, and a fatal blow” to Israel’s deterrence.

“Diplomatic blindness led Israel into the hands of Hamas and made the residents of the South the terrorist organisation’s hostages. It is clear tonight that the Right does not have a solution to the security situation, we do.”