Israeli soldiers sit in an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC)
at a staging area outside the northern Gaza Strip.
Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement have agreed to an
Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire to halt an eight-day conflict
around the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 140
Palestinians and five Israelis.
Announcing the ceasefire in Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister
Mohamed Kamel Amr said it would give 1.7 million Palestinians
respite from days of ferocious air strikes and halt rocket
attacks from Gaza that for the first time reached Tel Aviv
A flurry of explosions shook the city of Gaza as the truce
deadline approached and several rockets landed in the
southern Israeli city of Beersheba.
Amr said mediation efforts had "resulted in understandings to
cease fire, restore calm and halt the bloodshed".
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, standing alongside
him, thanked Egypt's new Islamist President Mohamed Mursi for
his peace efforts, saying his government was assuming
"responsibility, leadership" in the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. President
Barack Obama he was ready to give the ceasefire a chance, but
that "more forceful action" might be needed if it failed,
according to a statement from his office.
Obama in turn reiterated his country's commitment to Israel's
security and pledged to seek funds for a joint missile
defence programme, the White House said.
Senior Hamas lawmaker Ahmed Bahar said Israel had "submitted
to the conditions and demands set by the resistance" and he
hailed the outcome as a triumph.
"Resistance achieved a historical victory against the
occupation and laid the foundation for the battle of
liberation of the full land and sacred sites," Bahar, deputy
speaker of the Palestinian parliament, said in a statement
from his office.
According to a text of the agreement seen by Reuters, both
sides should halt all hostilities, with Israel desisting from
incursions and targeting of individuals, while all
Palestinian factions should cease rocket fire and
The deal also provides for easing Israeli restrictions on
Gaza's residents, who live in what British Prime Minister
David Cameron has called an "open prison".
The text said procedures for implementing this would be
"dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire".
Israeli sources said Israel would not lift a blockade of the
enclave it enforced after Hamas, which rejects the Jewish
state's right to exist, won a Palestinian election in 2006.
The ceasefire was forged despite a bus bomb explosion that
wounded 15 Israelis in Tel Aviv earlier in the day and
despite more Israeli air strikes that killed 10 Gazans.
The Tel Aviv blast, near the Israeli Defence Ministry,
touched off celebratory gunfire from militants in Gaza and
had threatened to complicate truce efforts. It was the first
serious bombing in Israel's commercial capital since 2006.
In Gaza, Israel struck more than 100 targets, including a
cluster of Hamas government buildings. Medical officials said
a two-year-old boy was among the dead.
Israel has carried out more than 1,500 strikes since the
offensive began with the killing of a top Hamas commander and
with the declared aim of deterring Hamas from launching
rocket attacks that have long disrupted life in southern
Medical officials in Gaza said 146 Palestinians, more than
half of them civilians, including 36 children, have been
killed in Israel's offensive. Nearly 1,400 rockets have been
fired into Israel, killing four civilians and a soldier, the
Egypt, a longstanding U.S. ally now under Islamist leadership
after last year's overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, took centre
stage in diplomatic efforts to halt the carnage, using its
privileged ability to speak directly to both sides.
"This is a critical moment for the region," Clinton said.
"Egypt's new government is assuming the responsibility and
leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone for
regional stability and peace."
She also pledged to work with partners in the region "to
consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people
of Gaza, provide security for the people of Israel".
Egypt has walked a fine line between its sympathies for
Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood to which Mursi
belongs, and its need to preserve its 1979 peace treaty with
Israel and its ties with Washington, its main aid donor.
"Egypt calls on all to monitor the implementation of what has
been agreed under Egypt's sponsorship and to guarantee the
commitment of all the parties to what has been agreed," its
foreign minister said at the news conference in Cairo.
Israel, the top recipient of U.S. assistance, agreed to stop
fighting after having gathered troops and armour on the
border with Gaza in preparation for a high-risk ground
Netanyahu, in his conversation with Obama, "agreed to his
recommendation to give the Egyptian ceasefire proposal a
chance, and in this way provide an opportunity to stabilise
the situation and calm it before any more forceful action
would be necessary", an Israeli statement said.