Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Israel and Hamas Reach Ceasefire

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is set to begin at 9 p.m. local time.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr announced the agreement Wednesday evening in Cairo. It will go into effect at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Prior to the announcement, President Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who accepted Obama's recommendation to give the Egyptian cease-fire proposal a chance to work.

Obama reiterated his commitment to Israel's security and made clear that no country can be expected to tolerate rocket attacks against civilians, according to the White House. He also commended Netanyahu for agreeing to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal while reiterating that Israel maintains the right to defend itself. Obama told Netanyahu that he was committed to seeking additional funding for Iron Dome and other U.S.-Israel missile defense programs.

Clinton called the cease-fire agreement a "critical moment for the region," and praised Egypt for its leadership on the agreement. She said the next steps include moving toward a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Five Israelis and more than 140 Palestinians have been reported killed since Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense on Nov. 14 with the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari. The assassination followed several days of intense rocket bombardment on southern Israel, and Hamas stepped up its rocket fire against Israel after the operation began. Hamas missiles have reached as far as the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas nearly 50 miles away. On Wednesday, terrorists detonated a bomb aboard a bus in central Tel Aviv, wounding 21 people.