ISRAEL and the Islamist Hamas movement agreed yesterday to a ceasefire to halt an eight-day conflict around the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis.
Announcing the ceasefire in Cairo, Egyptian foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said it would come into force at 9pm (7pm GMT), which would give 1.7m Palestinians respite from days of ferocious air strikes and halt rocket attacks from Gaza that for the first time reached Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
A flurry of explosions shook Gaza as the truce deadline approached and several rockets landed in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. Amr said mediation had “resulted in understandings to cease fire, restore calm and halt the bloodshed”.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, standing alongside him, thanked Egypt's new Islamist President Mohamed Mursi for his peace efforts, saying his government was assuming “responsibility and leadership” in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Barack Obama he was ready to give the ceasefire a chance, but that “more forceful action” might be needed if it failed.
City A.M. Reporter