News World Middle East Israel-Palestine: Australia welcomes ceasefire as Hamas and Israel agree to Gaza truce
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Israel-Palestine: Australia welcomes ceasefire as Hamas and Israel agree to Gaza truce

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Australia has welcomed the announcement of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after almost two weeks of deadly warfare.

The fighting flared up after Israeli forces tried to forcibly evict Palestinians from their homes in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah and stormed the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

It triggered 11 days of air strikes and rocket fire that killed at least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, and 12 people in Israel.

As of Friday, Israel and Hamas will cease fire across the Gaza Strip border, bringing a halt to the fiercest fighting in years.

Morrison government minister Simon Birmingham said the truce was welcome news.

“We hope that it endures and we hope that it provides scope for Israel and representatives of the Palestinian people to come back to the negotiating table and to ultimately work towards a two-state solution,” Senator Birmingham said on Friday.

“Credit should be given to President Biden and the United States, as well as Egyptian leaders who have engaged carefully with both Israel and Palestinian representatives and Hamas to get to the point of this ceasefire.”

Senator Birmingham urged both parties to respect the terms of the ceasefire and engage in negotiations to advance long-term peace.

Joe Biden’s role in the de-escalation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said his security cabinet had voted unanimously in favour of a “mutual and unconditional” Gaza truce proposed by Egypt, but added the hour of implementation had yet to be agreed.

Hamas and Egypt said the truce would begin at 2am (local time) on Friday, ending 11 days of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities.

Amid growing global alarm at the bloodshed, US President Joe Biden urged Mr Netanyahu on Wednesday to seek de-escalation, while Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations sought to mediate.

Speaking after the ceasefire had been confirmed Mr Biden reiterated American support for “Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks.” 

“We remain committed to work with the United Nations and other international stakeholders to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and international support for the people of Gaza and the Gazan reconstruction efforts,” Mr Biden said.

“I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy.

“My administration will continue our quiet, relentless diplomacy towards that end. I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress and I have committed to working for it.”

Hamas said the ceasefire would be “mutual and simultaneous”.

“The Palestinian resistance will abide by this agreement as long as the Occupation (Israel) does the same,” Taher Al-Nono, media adviser to Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, told Reuters.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had ordered two security delegations into Israel and the Palestinian Territories to work towards upholding the ceasefire, Egyptian state TV reported.

In a televised speech Abu Ubaida, spokesman of the Hamas armed wing, said: “With the help of God, we were able to humiliate the enemy, its fragile entity and its savage army.”

He threatened Hamas rocket fire that would reach throughout Israel if it violated the truce or struck Gaza before the hour of implementation.

Rocket attacks by Hamas and the allied Islamic Jihad had resumed after an eight-hour pause earlier on Thursday, as Israel pursued shelling that it said aimed to destroy the factions’ military capabilities and deter them from future confrontations after the current conflict.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Twitter the Gaza offensive had yielded “unprecedented military gains”.

Speaking to his US counterpart Lloyd Austin, Gantz said Israel’s defence establishment would “continue to work closely and in full co-operation with the Pentagon and the US administration to stabilise the region”, Gantz’s office said.

Since the fighting began on May 10, health officials in Gaza said 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, had been killed and more than 1900 wounded in aerial bombardments. Israel said it had killed at least 160 combatants in Gaza.

Authorities put the death toll in Israel at 12, with hundreds of people treated for injuries in rocket attacks that caused panic and sent people rushing into shelters.

The violence was triggered by Palestinian anger at what they saw as Israeli curbs on their rights in Jerusalem, including during police confrontations with protesters at Al-Aqsa mosque.

Hamas previously demanded that any halt to the Gaza fighting be accompanied by Israeli drawdowns in Jerusalem. An Israeli official told Reuters there was no such condition in the truce.

Mr Biden discussed Gaza with Sisi and the White House said reports of moves toward a ceasefire were “encouraging”. Hamas is deemed a terrorist group in the West and by Israel, which it refuses to recognise.

-with AAP

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