A ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas went into effect early Friday after 11 days of violence that left more than 250 people dead and over a thousand injured.
Weeks of rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians came to a head May 10 when militants from Hamas aimed rockets at Jerusalem. The airstrikes came after Israeli police clashed with worshippers at the al-Aqsa Mosque multiple times between May 8 and May 10.
Thousands of rockets were fired between Israeli and Hamas forces during the 11-day fight. The violence destroyed Hamas’ extensive tunnel system underneath Gaza, which militants used to transport ammunition and missiles, and destroyed 16,800 homes, according to Gaza officials.
At least 243 civilian people were killed in Gaza, 100 of which were women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry. In Israel, 12 people, including two children, died from the violence, according to its medical service.
Both Israeli forces and Hamas militants declared victory in the fight following the ceasefire announcement, which was negotiated Thursday and went into effect early Friday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that the fighting damaged Hamas’ capability to fire rockets at Israel. Israeli rocket launches killed more than 225 Hamas militants during the days of fighting, 25 of which were senior figures, according to Israeli officials.
“Hamas can’t hide anymore,” the prime minister said in a televised address. “That’s a great achievement for Israel. We eliminated an important part of Hamas’s and Islamic Jihad’s command echelon. And whoever was not killed knows today that our long arm can reach him anywhere, above ground or underground.”
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh also responded to Friday’s ceasefire, declaring that the militant group achieved a successful resistance to an economically stronger foe. He said Hamas would rebuild its lost military capabilities.
“We will rebuild what the occupation (Israel) destroyed and restore our capabilities, and we will not abandon our obligations and duties to the families of martyrs, the wounded and those whose homes were destroyed,” Mr. Haniyeh said.
In Gaza, civilians took the streets Friday to celebrate the ceasefire, waving the Palestinian flag and setting off fireworks.
President Joe Biden praised the ceasefire during an address Thursday, calling it a “genuine opportunity” for long-term peace in the Middle East. During the conflict, President Joe Biden avoided public comment on the Israeli airstrikes, but reiterated Thursday that the U.S. will “fully support Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks.” He also offered condolences to the Palestinian people who lost their homes and their loved ones and vowed that humanitarian aid would be swiftly delivered through the Palestinian Authority.
“I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Mr. Biden said Thursday. “My administration will continue our quiet, relentless diplomacy toward that.”
Jonathan Bar-El, the consul for public diplomacy and spokesperson for the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles, was thankful for the president’s support of Israel’s right to defend its citizens and said he was moved by the gestures of Israel’s supporters around the world.
Mr. Bar-El told the News-Press that he was glad to hear about the ceasefire, hopeful this will mean a return to “tranquility and diplomatic solutions.” He expressed optimism at Israel’s achievements during the fight, noting that airstrikes “severely damaged and degraded Hamas’ capability to continue to fire and to launch missiles over Israel again.”
Yet, despite Hamas’ decreased ability to fire strikes towards Israel, Mr. Bar-El said only time will tell if this ceasefire will hold.
“We are still of course concerned because we are dealing with a terror organization, and as such, (Hamas) might strike again and a ceasefire is always being tested over time,” Mr. Bar-El said.
He added, “(Hamas) is a terror organization. It’s important to say that the Palestinian people is not our enemy — our enemy is the one who started this attack, Hamas, an Islamic, radical terror organization.”
To maintain peace in the region, Mr. Bar-El said Hamas needs to stop firing missiles at Israel and should recognize that “Israel exists and will stay there.”
“If Hamas won’t launch missiles, we will have tranquility and hopefully peace, and I think we’ll be able to negotiate in a peaceful manner,” Mr. Bar-El said. “Hamas needs to stop launching missiles and stop putting Palestinians in danger as (the militants) do and using them as human shields for (their) purposes.”
Prior to the ceasefire, instances of anti-Semitic attacks were reported in Los Angeles County earlier this week. Currently, the Los Angeles Police Department is investigating an attack against a group of Jewish men who were dining in a Beverly Grove restaurant late Tuesday night. According to eyewitness reporters, a pro-Palestinian mob attacked the men by throwing bottles and yelling anti-Semitic slurs.
No one was seriously injured in the attack, and the LAPD said it is investigating this as a hate crime. The Anti-Defamation League is offering a $5,000 reward for information regarding suspects involved in the attack.
The Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, for which Mr. Bar-El is the spokesperson, issued a statement condemning the attack.
“The events that took place are the result of ongoing hate speech and incitement fed by false propaganda against Israel on social media and even in mainstream media outlets,” the consulate said in a statement. “The indiscriminate attacks against Israelis has now spread to indiscriminate attacks against Jews in Los Angeles and around the world.”