Israel approves cease-fire in Gaza, Hamas calls it ‘a victory’ but remains on alert

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet has approved a unilateral cease-fire to halt an 11-day military operation in the Gaza Strip, officials said late Thursday.

The decision came after heavy U.S. pressure to halt the offensive. Multiple reports said the cease-fire was to go into effect at 2 a.m., just over three hours after the decision.

Netanyahu’s office confirmed Israeli media reports of the ceasefire Thursday.

An official from the Palestinian militant Hamas group says Israel’s declaration of a cease-fire represents a defeat for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “a victory to the Palestinian people.”

Since fighting broke out on May 10, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says have targeted Hamas’ infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network. Hamas and other militant groups embedded in residential areas have fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities, with hundreds falling short and most of the rest intercepted.

Ali Barakeh, a member of Hamas’ Arab and Islamic relations bureau, told The Associated Press that the militants will remain on alert until they hear from mediators who have been working for days between Hamas and Israel.

Hamas officials haves said that they have been contacted by officials from Russia, Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations to reach a truce with Israel. He added that once Hamas hears back from the mediators, its leadership will hold discussions and will make an announcement after that.

Barakeh spoke just minutes after Netanyahu’s office on Thursday announced a cease-fire to halt the 11-day military operation against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. A statement said Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet unilaterally approved the Egyptian-mediated proposal.

It appears the two sides were still negotiating exactly when the cease-fire would take effect. Multiple reports said it would go into effect at 2 a.m., just over three hours after the cabinet’s decision.

At least 230 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza health officials, while 12 people in Israel have died.

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