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The Israeli leader, criticized by his Hawk base for ending the offensive prematurely, said Israel had “done daring and new things without getting drawn into unnecessary adventures”. He added that the Israel Defense Forces “did maximum damage to Hamas with a minimum of casualties in Israel”.
He said Israeli strikes killed more than 200 militants, including 25 senior commanders, and hit more than 60 miles of militant tunnels. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group have recognized only 20 fighters killed.
According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, at least 243 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children, and 1,910 people were injured. No distinction is made between fighters and civilians. Twelve people were killed in Israel, all but one civilian, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl.
The ceasefire was on the verge of an early test when clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police broke out between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police after Friday prayers in the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque, a holy place in Jerusalem that is sacred to Jews and Muslims. The clashes earlier this month were one of the main drivers of the war.
It was unclear what sparked the violence on Friday. Police fired tranquilizers and tear gas, and the Palestinians hurled stones after hundreds attended a celebratory demonstration waving Palestinian and Hamas flags and cheering on the militant group. Israeli police said they had arrested 16 people.
Clashes between demonstrators and Israeli troops have also occurred in parts of the occupied West Bank, where violent demonstrations related to Jerusalem and Gaza have taken place in recent days.
Thousands took to the streets of Gaza as the ceasefire struck at 2 a.m. Young men waved Palestinian and Hamas flags, handed out sweets, honked horns and lit fireworks. Overnight celebrations were also held in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Israel conquered all three territories in the 1967 war and the Palestinians want them for their future state.
An open-air market in Gaza City that was closed during the war reopened and shoppers filled with fresh tomatoes, cabbage and watermelons. Workers in orange traffic vests were sweeping debris from the surrounding streets.
“Life will return because this is not the first war and it will not be the last war,” said shop owner Ashraf Abu Mohammad. “The heart aches, there have been disasters, families that have been struck from the registry office, and that makes us sad. But that is our fate in this country to be patient. “
There was little to celebrate in the badly affected northern city of Beit Hanoun. Residents, many of whom had lost loved ones, examined destroyed homes.
“We are seeing so much destruction here, it is the first time in history that we have seen this,” said Azhar Nsair. “The ceasefire is for people who have not suffered, who have not lost loved ones, and whose homes have not been bombed.”
Rescue workers were still retrieving bodies from areas too dangerous to enter. Five were collected on Friday in Khan Younis city in the southern Gaza Strip, including a 3-year-old, the Red Crescent Ambulance said.
As in the three previous wars, the last round of fighting did not end conclusively. Israel claimed it did serious damage to Hamas, but again failed to stop the rockets.
Hamas also won, but faces the daunting challenge of rebuilding an area already suffering from high unemployment and a coronavirus outbreak, as well as years of blockade by Egypt and Israel.
Fighting began on May 10 when Hamas militants fired long-range rockets at Jerusalem in Gaza. The barrage came after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in Al-Aqsa. The tough police tactics on the premises and the threatened displacement of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers had sparked tension.
Competing claims to Jerusalem, one of the most volatile problems of the decades-long conflict, have sparked repeated attacks of violence.
The ceasefire was brokered by neighboring Egypt after the US urged Israel to end the offensive. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to visit the region “to discuss recovery efforts and work together to create a better future for Israelis and Palestinians.” the State Department said.
Hamas and other militant groups fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities. Dozens ended up as far north as the bustling commercial capital of Tel Aviv.
Israel has now carried out hundreds of air strikes. A senior Israeli army official said Israel hit 1,600 “military targets” during the 11-day conflict.
The United States, Israel’s closest and most important ally, initially supported Israel’s right to self-defense against indiscriminate rocket fire. But as the fighting dragged on and deaths increased, Americans put increasing pressure on Israel to stop the offensive.
President Joe Biden welcomed the truce. He said the US is determined to help Israel replenish its supply of interceptor missiles and to work with the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority – not Hamas – to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Netanyahu has been heavily criticized by members of his Hawk nationalist base. Gideon Saar, a former ally who leads a small party against the Prime Minister, described the ceasefire as “embarrassing”. Itamar Ben Gvir, chairman of the far-right Jewish power party, tweeted that the ceasefire was “a heavy surrender to terrorism and the dictates of Hamas.”
In a potentially damaging development for the Israeli leader, Palestinian militants alleged that Netanyahu had agreed to halt further Israeli actions in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to end the planned evictions of Palestinians in the nearby Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. One Egyptian official only said that tensions in Jerusalem “will be addressed”.
Around 58,000 Palestinians sought protection in overcrowded UN schools during a coronavirus outbreak. Thousands returned to their homes when the armistice came.
The fighting dealt another blow to Gaza’s already dilapidated infrastructure. The small coastal area, home to more than 2 million Palestinians, has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took power in 2007 from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and restricted his authority to parts of the West Bank.
According to the World Health Organization, 30 health facilities in Gaza were damaged, with one clinic destroyed and another severely damaged. An air strike damaged the only facility in the Gaza Strip that ran coronavirus testing and forced testing on the territory to stall.
Fabrizio Carboni, regional director for the Middle East at the International Committee of the Red Cross, estimated that “several hundred” unexploded ordnance were scattered in Gaza, adding that medical care was an urgent need.