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Israel and Hamas agree ceasefire to end 11 days of fighting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced the ceasefire and a security cabinet statement called it “mutual and unconditional”.Hamas said the truce would begin at 2am on Friday (midnight UK time), but Israel did not confirm the time.

The breakthrough came a day after US President Joe Biden called for a “significant de-escalation” and followed mediation bids by Egypt, Qatar and the UN.

Speaking from the White House after the ceasefire was announced, Mr Biden sent his “sincere condolences to all the families, Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost loved ones” in the fighting.

Israel on Thursday continued to launch air strikes on Gaza, where 230 Palestinians, including 104 women and children, have been killed since May 10, according to local health officials. Twelve Israelis have been killed, including two children, as Hamas has fired more than 3,700 rockets into Israel since the conflict erupted last week. However, the scale of attacks from both sides appears to have been reduced overnight.

An Arab diplomat involved in the mediation said they were hoping Israel and Hamas would ease off on hostilities long enough to allow humanitarian aid into the blockaded Mediterranean enclave of 2m people to “test conditions for a longer ceasefire”. Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, visited Israel on Thursday to push for a ceasefire and discuss ways to mediate long-term solutions to the conflict. He also voiced Germany’s support for Israel and its right to self-defence. 

The UN, Egypt and Qatar have been involved in shuttle diplomacy between Hamas — which Israel, the US and the EU consider a terrorist group — and the Israeli military. The negotiations had been held up in part by a Hamas demand that Israel stop targeting senior leaders in the militant group with air strikes, the Arab diplomat said.

The Israeli army has tried to kill Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif twice in the current hostilities, the army told Israel’s Hebrew press on Wednesday, but that he escaped both times.

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