Tel Aviv / Gaza (dpa) – Militant Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Israel put an end to their brutal two-way attacks on Friday morning for the time being.
An Egypt-brokered ceasefire went into effect at 2 a.m. (1 a.m. CEST) and was initially respected by both sides. 232 people died in Gaza and 12 people in Israel in the exchange of blows. In the Gaza Strip, thousands of people poured into the streets and, amid the ruins, expressed relief at the end of the horror with fireworks, shots in the air and shouts of “Allahu akbar”.
In recent days, international pressure, especially from the US, to end the bloodshed had increased. On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the phone that he expected a “significant de-escalation … towards a ceasefire” later in the day. Following the ceasefire agreement, Biden said there was now a “real opportunity” to make progress towards lasting peace in the Middle East. However, a Netanyahu spokesperson stressed that the ceasefire was carried out without any preconditions.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the end of the fighting and called on all parties to abide by the agreement. The Portuguese had previously expressed fear about the deaths of many civilians. “If there is hell on Earth, it is the lives of the children in Gaza,” he said in New York.
In the hours before the ceasefire was declared, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas visited Israel and the Palestinian territories. In doing so, he was again clearly on the side of the Jewish state. “For us, the security of Israel, as well as the security of all Jews in Germany, is non-negotiable,” he stressed. Maas received sympathy and benevolence from his Israeli hosts. His colleague Gabi Aschkenasi said: “I thank him for visiting us right now, at a time when missiles are falling.” Hamas, on the other hand, condemned Maas’s statements as “partial”. “We are shocked by the media statements of the German Foreign Minister (…) regarding the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories,” the Hamas Office for International Affairs wrote in a statement.
The consequences of Hamas’s brutal exchange of blows with rocket fire towards Jerusalem on May 10 are devastating. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 232 Palestinians were murdered on Thursday, including 65 children and adolescents. 1,900 people were injured. 1,800 apartments and houses were destroyed, including five high-rises. Numerous government buildings and all police stations were also reduced to rubble. Israel’s attacks on the Hamas tunnel system, the so-called metro, have also wreaked havoc on infrastructure.
Nevertheless, Hamas sees itself as the winner. She has proven herself to be the true protector of Jerusalem and a fighter for the rights of the Palestinian people, prominent Hamas member Muschir al-Masri said in Gaza on Thursday. This was directed against Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank, who is more willing to compromise on Israel, and who, unlike Hamas, does not deny Israel its right to exist. Hamas also managed to sow serious turmoil between Jewish and Arab Israelis and to draw the international community’s attention back to the unresolved conflict. Israel, for its part, wanted to end rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. This goal was initially achieved, although, according to Israeli information, the Palestinians fired a total of 4,340 missiles at Israel, killing 12 people and injuring more than 300. In addition, the ability of Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip to attack Israel in the future must be diminished. The well-equipped Israeli army has been able to do just that, albeit at a high humanitarian price, which has been criticizing Israel. And Hamas always recovered from previous blows after a few years.