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Israel and Hamas agree to an unconditional cease-fire after 11 days of fighting in Gaza Strip

Posted at 9:55 AM, May 20, 2021

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel and Hamas have both agreed to a mutual, unconditional cease-fire after an 11-day military operation in the Gaza Strip, according to President Joe Biden who spoke with international leaders.

The Associated Press reports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced the cease-fire Thursday, saying his security cabinet unilaterally approved a proposal mediated by Egypt.

A Hamas official told Reuters that the ceasefire would be “mutual and simultaneous,” though the organization has not yet publicly commented on the reported cease-fire.

Biden said Hamas had agreed to the cease-fire, which will take place at 2 a.m. local time, early evening on the East Coast of the U.S.

The cease-fire decision came amid global pressure on both Israel and Hamas to quell the violence that has erupted in Gaza in the past week.

Reports indicated earlier on Thursday that the two sides could agree to a ceasefire soon. According to reports from CNN and the Wall Street Journal, a cease-fire in Gaza was "imminent" and could occur as soon as this week.

At a press briefing on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the reports "encouraging" and added that the administration is continuing to implement its policy in the region "quietly and through diplomatic channels."

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Egyptian officials have made headway in negotiations with Hamas leadership. That report came hours after President Joe Biden, in a call Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called for "significant de-escalation" in the region and urged him to find a "path to a cease-fire."

Following that call, Netanyahu released a statement saying that he remains committed to the military operation. However, Biden administration officials told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that they believe "a cease-fire could come this week, barring any unforeseen clashes that might topple the fragile discussions."

During Thursday's briefing, Psaki declined to disclose if Israel had met Biden's calls for "significant de-escalation."

"We're not going to give a day-by-day grade here," she said adding that Hamas and Israel are "to a point where they should be in a position to end this conflict."

Prior to Wednesday's call, the Biden White House had primarily avoided directly appealing to Israel to reduce violence. Earlier this week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki maintained that while the U.S. is committed to de-escalating violence in the region, she added that the Biden administration believed that Israel had a right to defend itself.

According to CNN, more than 220 Palestinians, including more than 60 children, had been killed in the 10 days of violence. CNN added that during that time span, 12 Israelis had been killed, including two children.

While Hamas — a Palestinian fundamentalist military operation which the state department has designated as a terrorist organization — has fired thousands of rockets into Israel, Israeli defense systems have shot down the majority of those missiles.