Opinions & Features May 21, 2021 at 08:11 am

Gaza ceasefire: How an African country brokered an agreement between Israel and Hamas to halt days of conflict

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

Mildred Europa Taylor May 21, 2021 at 08:11 am

May 21, 2021 at 08:11 am | Opinions & Features

Air strikes in Gaza. Photo: EPA

The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza took effect early Friday morning after 11 days of conflict. The cease-fire, which was brokered by Egypt, began at 2:00 a.m. local time on Friday (23:00 UTC Thursday). A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the security cabinet had “unanimously accepted the recommendations to accept an Egyptian initiative for an unconditional … ceasefire.”

Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad subsequently confirmed the ceasefire in a statement. AFP reported that two Egyptian leaders will travel to Tel Aviv and the Palestinian territories to monitor the implementation of the truce.

There have been celebrations on the streets of Gaza following the truce. Thousands of Palestinians have been seen waving flags while others were praising God. In Tel Aviv, people greeted the announcement with mixed feelings. “I don’t think Israel has achieved much. I mean there no … no agreements about the future, nothing. But I guess good to have a bit of break.”

Since the conflict began, at least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, have been killed. 12 people, including two children, have been killed on the Israeli side. The 11-day conflict began over a court case to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem. Jewish settlers claim the properties were owned by Jews prior to 1948. Things got worse when Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinians near the al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan. Palestinian militant group Hamas then threatened to fire rockets at Israel if Israeli security forces do not leave the Temple Mount. Israel did not get its forces out of the area. Hamas then launched rockets towards Jerusalem.

The Israeli military, in response, launched an offensive against Hamas in Gaza. The fighting was the worst between the two sides since a 50-day war in 2014, according to media reports. World leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have welcomed the truce.

What role did Egypt play?

Egypt, which has signed a peace treaty with Israel and shares its border with Gaza, often mediates conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians. On Monday, amid the conflict between Israel and Palestine, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah-Al-Sissi expressed his “deep concern” over the Gaza crisis and said he will continue with efforts towards a quick ceasefire. A mediation process began including Egypt, Jordan, Germany, with the support of France.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry had earlier said that his country will work towards reaching a ceasefire while looking to resolve the Palestinian issue. “Egypt will support peace efforts until the Palestinian people obtain their legitimate rights and the region enjoys the stability that all our peoples seek,” Shoukry told a United Nations Security Council meeting on Sunday.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since 1948, is over who gets what land and how it is controlled. Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, is located just east of the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians, the Arab population that hails from the land Israel now controls, refer to the territory as Palestine and want to establish a state by that name on all or part of the same land.

This had led to series of wars between Israel and the surrounding Arab nations over the territory, resulting in deaths and injuries. The war in 1967 left Israel in control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, two territories home to large Palestinian populations.

A “two-state solution” that would establish Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and most of the West Bank, leaving the rest of the land to Israel is said to be the primary solution though both sides are still divided over how to make this work.

Egypt, which is the current chair of the Arab League, is in support of the two-state solution. In February, Egypt Today reported that Egypt is “still leading the Arab efforts to support the Palestinian side and work on ending the stalemate in the Middle East peace process by bringing Israel and Palestine to the negotiations table.” The report said Palestine leaders see Egypt’s role as “inseparable” from the peace process.

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