Celebrations in Gaza as ceasefire takes hold

Israeli security cabinet and Hamas agree to Egyptian-brokered ceasefire to halt 11 days of fighting.

Palestinians celebrate the ceasefire brokered by Egypt between Israel and Hamas in Gaza City [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

A ceasefire came into force in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Friday morning after Egypt brokered an agreement between Israel and Hamas to halt 11 days of conflict.

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 then confirmed the ceasefire in a statement, saying it would come into force at 2:00am on Friday (23:00 GMT on Thursday).

Thousands of people in Gaza and the Palestinian territories poured onto the streets to celebrate the ceasefire, waving flags and flashing ‘V’ signs for victory.

At least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, have been killed in the Israeli bombardment.

On the Israeli side, 12 people, including two children, have been killed.

Here are the latest updates:

China to provide humanitarian assistance to help Gaza recovery

China will send assistance to help treat the injured and find new accommodation for those left homeless as a result of the Israeli air attacks on Gaza, state media reported, citing Tian Lin, a spokesperson for the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA).

Pakistan welcomes ceasefire, plans ‘day of solidarity’ with Palestinians

Pakistan has welcomed the announcement of the Gaza ceasefire and a series of demonstrations are planned across the country to mark a day of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi welcomed the ceasefire, describing it as “the power of collective, unified action; this is the effort of every person and every nation, together for a just cause”.

Rallies will be held in main cities, including Islamabad, the capital, Karachi and Lahore.

Scepticism in Israel in face of government claims that attacks set Hamas back

There is scepticism in Israel about the bombardment of Gaza and the ceasefire despite claims from the country’s defence minister that the attacks had set Hamas back, according to Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett who is in West Jerusalem.

“There’s a lot of concern and questioning about where this has got anybody – apart from more destruction and more death,” Fawcett said, noting: “There’s a sense that this has all been said before.”

Hamas maintains ‘hands on trigger’ after ceasefire: Official

A Hamas official has told the Reuters news agency that Israel must end its violations in Jerusalem and address damages from the bombardment of Gaza following the ceasefire, warning the group still has its “hands on the trigger”.

“It is true the battle ends today but (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and the whole world should know that our hands are on the trigger and we will continue to grow the capabilities of this resistance,” Ezzat El-Reshiq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, told the news agency.

He told the Reuters news agency in Doha that the movement’s demands also include protecting Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and ending the eviction of several Palestinians from their home in occupied East Jerusalem which Reshiq described as “a red line”.

“What comes after the battle of ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ is not like what came before because the Palestinian people backed the resistance and know that the resistance is what will liberate their land and protect their holy sites,” Reshiq said.

Rebuilding a ‘daunting challenge’ for Gaza following ceasefire

Some people in Gaza who had been taking shelter in school buildings after their homes were damaged in Israeli raids began returning as soon as the ceasefire began, according to Al Jazeera’s Youmna Al Sayed who is reporting from Gaza.

But she said many residents had had their homes completely destroyed and the task of rebuilding the city would be a “daunting challenge” thanks to the closure of border crossings which has starved Gaza of crucial building materials, fuel and other necessities.

“We are talking about rebuilding a territory that was already suffering a dire economic situation, high unemployment and the coronavirus outbreak,” she said.

A family that was sheltering at a United Nations run school, return with their belongings to their home following the ceasefire [Mohammed Abed/AFP]


Celebrating the ceasefire in Gaza after 11 days of bombardment

More pictures are coming in of Palestinians celebrating Friday’s ceasefire.

People wave Hamas flags on the streets of Gaza City [Adel Hana/AP Photo]
Palestinians chant slogans celebrating the ceasefire [Khalil Hamra/AP Photo]
People take to the streets of Gaza City to celebrate the ceasefire, which came into effect early on Friday morning [Mohammed Abed/AFP]

Gaza attacks have thrust Middle East peace to top of US agenda

More on Blinken’s planned trip to the Middle East.

Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Washington, DC, says the Biden administration had planned to focus on domestic issues in its first year, but Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has thrust Middle East peace back to the top of the US foreign policy agenda.

Elizondo says Blinken’s visit suggests the US wants to “seize on this opportunity to push for a more stable and longer lasting peace beyond the ceasefire”.

Blinken to travel to Middle East in ‘the coming days’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is planning to travel to the Middle East “in the coming days” following the Friday ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Blinken has spoken to his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, who “welcomed Secretary Blinken’s planned travel to the region, where the secretary will meet with Israeli, Palestinian and regional counterparts in the coming days to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Hamas claims ‘victory’ with Gaza ceasefire: AFP

Speaking to thousands of people celebrating the ceasefire in Gaza City, a senior Hamas figure has claimed victory in the conflict with Israel, according to the AFP news agency.

“This is the euphoria of victory,” said Khalil al-Hayya, the second-most senior member of the group’s political bureau in the Gaza Strip. He also promised to reconstruct homes destroyed by Israeli air raids.

Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya flashes the V-sign for victory as people take to the streets to celebrate the ceasefire in Gaza City [Mohammed Abed/AFP]

UN Secretary General calls for ‘real reconciliation’ after ceasefire

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has called for “serious” efforts to address the underlying causes of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

“I stress that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have a responsibility beyond the restoration of calm to start a serious dialogue to address the root causes of the conflict,” the UN secretary-general said.

“Gaza is an integral part of the future Palestinian state and no effort should be spared to bring about real national reconciliation that ends the division.”

Palestinians celebrate in the streets of the southern Gaza Strip following a ceasefire that came into force in the early hours of Friday morning [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Egypt President el-Sisi praises US diplomatic effort to negotiate a ceasefire

“I pay tribute and appreciation to the US President Biden for his role in the success of the Egyptian ceasefire initiative,” Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said in a series of tweets after the ceasefire was announced.

Palestinians in Gaza celebrate as ceasefire takes hold

Palestinians celebrated as a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel took hold in the early morning hours of Friday, reported Al Jazeera correspondent Safwat al-Kahlout who described the sounds of fireworks and gunshots into the air.

Palestinian factions are calling the ceasefire a victory and words of praise to God were being broadcast from mosque loudspeakers, al-Kahlout said.

A senior Hamas official planned to visit a Gaza family that had lost 45 members in three residential buildings destroyed by Israeli bombing and would give a speech, he said.

“Thousands of people went into the street to celebrate,” al-Kahlout said.

Biden delivers remarks on expected ceasefire

US President Joe Biden spoke about the expected ceasefire between Israel and Hamas from the White House on Thursday afternoon.

“The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians,” Biden said at the White House.

Biden said he “commended” the Israelis for bringing the immediate conflict to an end after 11 days and “assured” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of continued US military support during a call earlier in the day.

“These hostilities have resulted in tragic deaths of so many civilians, including children, and I send my sincere condolences to all the families, Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost loved ones,” Biden said.

Relative calm in occupied East Jerusalem: Correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said there was relative calm in the area.

“There have been according to this [Red Alert] app … that there had been quite a few rockets fired from Gaza, most of them intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system, but in general quite quiet on this side of the border,” she said.

“I think everyone on either side is bracing themselves that in 90 minutes or so they could maybe have a sigh of relief.”

Israel strategy to divide Palestinians has failed: Israeli analyst

Akiva Eldar, an Israeli political analyst, has said the government’s strategy to divide Palestinians has failed.

“I think the Israeli strategy, which was to divide between the Palestinian communities in Gaza, in the West Bank, and in Israel proper … has failed for the first time in many years,” Eldar told Al Jazeera via Skype from Tel Aviv.

“After we believed that wounds between Israeli and Arabs in Israel proper started healing, they opened again – and there is no ceasefire between the majority of the Israelis and the Israeli minority.”

Moreover, Elder said Netanyahu was likely to lose his partners from the radical right who were “very unhappy” with the ceasefire.

Egypt to help in rebuilding process: UN representative

Following the announcement of a ceasefire, Egypt’s representative at the United Nations announced to member states that it will fund efforts to rebuild Gaza after 11 days of Israel’s bombardment of the coastal enclave.

“We hope that it will last,” Mohamed Idris said of the ceasefire.

“Any life that we can save warrants all of the efforts that we are making. And we’re making as many efforts as possible and up to the last minute possible.”

An Israeli air raid hits the high-rise building housing The Associated Press’ and Al Jazeera offices in Gaza City, Saturday, May 15, 2021 [Hatem Moussa/AP]

Explosions in Gaza still ongoing: Gaza humanitarian worker

Khaled Abu Shabaan, a humanitarian worker in Gaza City, said he and others could still hear explosions.

“We can hear some sounds of explosions here and there, and also the drones are still filling the air so we are hopeful this alleged ceasefire will really materialise by 2am as it was announced,” he told Al Jazeera.

“I was very lucky to haven’t been forced to relocate … [but] it’s been a very tormenting experience for us to go through this war and if anyone wants this hell to end will be us Palestinians here in Gaza.”

Ceasefire announcement ‘very good news’: UCLA professor

Dov Waxman, professor of Israeli Studies at UCLA said the agreement between Hamas and Israel to reach a ceasefire was “very good news”.

“I think it could have been reached days ago with more concerted early pressure from the Biden administration, but it is certainly to be welcomed,” he said.

However, Waxman said it was a “fragile ceasefire”; it wasn’t clear at this point whether there is an agreement between Israel and Hamas or just a mutual ceasefire.

People in Gaza fear intense bombardment before truce comes into effect

Journalist Sami Abu Salem, reporting from Gaza, told Al Jazeera that Israel has launched intensified air raids on Gaza before previous ceasefires.

“We expect that the people will celebrate … [but] people are [also] in fear because they are also used to seeing intensive fire just before the deadline,” he said.

A general view of Gaza before the start of the ceasefire [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Hamas, Islamic Jihad confirm Gaza ceasefire

Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have confirmed the Gaza ceasefire in a statement, saying it would come into force at 2:00am on Friday (23:00 GMT on Thursday).

Israel announces ceasefire in Gaza operation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has announced a ceasefire in Gaza operation.

Earlier a Hamas official and Israeli media said Israel and Hamas will ceasefire across the Gaza Strip border as of 2am on Friday (23:00 GMT Thursday).

A Hamas official told the Reuters news agency the ceasefire would be “mutual and simultaneous”.

More than 90,000 displaced in Gaza: UN

More than 90,000 people in Gaza have been displaced during the past 11 days due to continuing Israeli bombardment, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian territory said in a report.

“Hostilities have also resulted in additional displacement of Palestinians, bringing the cumulative number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to about 91,000, including 66,000 seeking protection in 58 UNRWA schools across Gaza and more than 25,000 staying with host families,” the organisation said.

At least 232 people killed in Israeli air raids: Health ministry

The Gaza Ministry of Health has said at least 232 people have been killed by Israel’s military campaign, including 65 children.

The number of wounded is more than 1,900.

Biden discusses Gaza bombardment with Egypt’s el-Sisi: White House

US President Joe Biden spoke today with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, with the two leaders discussing efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza.

They agreed that their teams would stay in constant communication towards that end and the two leaders would stay closely in touch.

US defends its widely criticised efforts to broker ceasefire in Gaza

The United States on Thursday defended its efforts to broker a ceasefire in renewed fighting between Israel and Palestinians after Washington found itself isolated at the United Nations over its opposition to any Security Council action.

“We have not been silent,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the 193-member UN General Assembly as it met to discuss the violence.

“In fact, I don’t believe that there’s any country working more urgently and more fervently toward peace.”

Israeli journalist fired for lamenting Arabs were not killed in rocket attack

A journalist for a right-wing Israeli media outlet was fired on Wednesday for lamenting that no Arabs were killed after a rocket launched reportedly from Lebanon landed in a northern Israeli city, local Israeli media said.

“One [rocket] has fallen on a soccer field in a large Arab community. Regretfully for us, it did not result in mass deaths there,” commentator Kobi Finkler said in a live broadcast for Channel 20, his remarks receiving widespread criticism, according to Haaretz newspaper.

The station said it “decided to immediately sever its connection with Mr Finkler and summon those involved in the broadcast to clarify matters and draw conclusions”.

More bombardment in Gaza: Reporter

Journalist Sami Abu Salem, reporting from Gaza, said several explosions were heard in the past hour, with reports suggesting a government compound was hit.

“Minutes ago we heard two big explosions … initial reports said two rockets hit a governmental compound,” he said.

Turkey: ‘Israel alone is responsible’ for Palestine violence

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu brushed aside the “both sides” arguments for the continuing violence in Israel and Palestine, maintaining Tel Aviv is the sole responsible party.

Speaking during a UN General Assembly session on the situation in Israel and Palestine, Cavusoglu said blame must be assigned “where it belongs”.

“Israel alone is responsible for what is happening today in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza,” he said.

Tunisia decries killing of children in Gaza

Tunisia, a member of the UN Security Council, criticised Israel on Thursday for the killing of children in its attack on the Gaza Strip.

“How many children will lose their lives?” Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi asked at the UN General Assembly’s emergency meeting.

“What crime could be worse than killing innocent children, including infants?”

Israeli air strikes continue in Gaza: Reporter

Journalist Sami Abu Salem, reporting from Gaza City, said Israeli bombardment was continuing as night approached in the besieged enclave.

“We are in Gaza city, next to the UN headquarters, [and we are] hearing jet fighters and drones moving,” he said.

“We’ve just heard also some bombing from the Israeli marine in the western side [of Gaza].”

Relatives of Hoda al-Khozondar, who was killed in an Israeli air raid, react as mourners carry her body out of the family home, during her funeral in the town of Khan Younis on the southern Gaza Strip [Yousef Masoud/AP]

Palestinians not hopeful with diplomatic, UN efforts: Correspondent

Al Jazeera correspondent Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Ramallah, said Palestinians are not very hopeful with diplomatic efforts, and the continuing UN meetings.

“The feeling among the common Palestinians on the streets, especially the youth … [is not to] believe in anything, any more,” she said.

“They wouldn’t be listening to what’s happening now. They would listen if someone comes in with some firm, hard piece of news.”

No unified statement expected from UNGA: Correspondent

Reporting from the United Nations headquarters in New York, Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey said that despite strong statements from individuals, no unified statement is expected from the General Assembly.

“We are seeing individually very strong statements, as a group, we do not expect any unified statement from the General Assembly, just like we have to see yet one from the Security Council,” Saloomey added.

“Efforts are ongoing … to come to some sort of an outcome statement, but we were told by the Palestinian ambassador and representative from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, who called this meeting, that their first priority was to shine a light on the ongoing situation and amplify calls for a ceasefire.”

‘Atmosphere of anticipation’ for Palestinians towards ceasefire: Correspondent

Al Jazeera’s correspondent Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Ramallah, said there was an “atmosphere of anticipation” towards a ceasefire and mixed feelings.

“So far, we haven’t had any official indication is that the ceasefire is imminent, even though it’s kind of out there,” she said.

“A ceasefire will be welcomed but a lot of Palestinians [are wondering] … what will [we] get out of it, are we going to get the status quo, is nothing going to change?”

‘If there is a Hell on Earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza’: UN chief

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the UN General Assembly on Thursday that: “If there is a Hell on Earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza.”

Guterres called for an “immediate end” to the fighting and said he was “deeply shocked by the continued air and artillery bombardment” by Israeli forces on Gaza.

He added that the “indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas” and other groups towards Israel – which have left 12 dead, including two children – was also “unacceptable”.

Read more here.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres [Carlo Allegri/REUTERS]

Netanyahu under pressure to end Gaza bombardment: Correspondent

Reporting from West Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was under pressure to bring this escalation of violence to an end.

“It really depends on who you speak to. If you are speaking to people involved in Israeli politics here, they said the PM Benjamin Netanyahu is under a tremendous amount of pressure to bring this to an end. But if you speak to him, or at least listen to his public statements, he says this could go on for as long as absolutely necessary,” Khan reported.

“In fact, just two days ago, he was saying he had options, there was deterrence in Gaza or he could conquer Gaza.”

Germany’s Merkel, Palestinian President Abbas back ceasefire efforts

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by telephone on Thursday to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the current Israeli bombardment of Gaza, with both agreeing to support efforts to reach a ceasefire, Merkel’s spokesman said.

The two leaders “agreed that efforts for a speedy ceasefire should continue to be supported,” Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

“The chancellor underlined Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.”

Multiple wave of rockets fired into southern Israel: correspondent

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza, Safwat al-Kahlout, reported that Israeli artillery shelling was intensifying in response to Hamas’s rocket fire into southern Israel.

“Hamas’s military wing says at least five rounds of rockets were fired into southern Israel including Ashkelon and Ashdod [in the past few hours],” he said.

The Israel Defense Forces said they struck two alleged “Hamas terror tunnels” that were under construction.

A Palestinian man sits on a damaged car following Israeli airstrikes on Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, May 20, 2021 [Khalil Hamra/AP]

ICUs in hospitals packed: journalist

Gaza journalist Youmna al-Sayed reported that hospitals in the besieged territory were having a hard time coping due to lack of resources and mounting injuries.

“The ICU units are completely overcrowded. The al-Shifa hospital [main hospital in Gaza] has only 10 beds available and now they extended that to 35 beds,” she said, adding that 26 people were brought to the hospital so far on Thursday.

However, with power and electricity shortages, the hospital was “having lots of difficulties in running equipment”, al-Sayed added.

UNWRA calls for $38m aid for Gaza, occupied territories

The United Nations relief agency UNRWA has appealed for help, revealing it urgently needed nearly $40m in order to assist with humanitarian efforts in Gaza and the occupied territories.

Human Rights Council to meet next week on Palestinian territories

The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on May 27 to address “the grave human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”, the UN body said.

“The special session is being convened per an official request submitted late yesterday jointly by Pakistan, as Coordinator of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the State of Palestine,” it added in a statement.

Gaza doctors recount experiences as war rages

For more than 10 days, Palestinian doctors in the Gaza Strip’s main al-Shifa hospital have been working around the clock to save lives during the Israeli army’s relentless bombardment of the besieged enclave.

Al Jazeera spoke to doctors at the hospital about what it means, physically and emotionally, to work amid a raging conflict.

Read more here.

Doctors at al-Shifa hospital treat patients from across the Gaza Strip [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

Norway fund dumps firms linked to Israel’s occupied West Bank settlements

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, has decided to dump two companies involved in the illegal construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, citing concerns about potential rights violations.

The fund will divest its holdings in the companies “due to unacceptable risk that the companies contribute to systematic violations of individuals’ rights in situations or war or conflict”, Norway’s central bank said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The companies are Shapir Engineering and Industry, a home builder, and Mivne Real Estate, which rents industrial premises in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel, Norway’s central bank said in a statement late Wednesday.

Gaza officials: Estimated costs of damage $322m

More than 1,335 housing units have been completely or severely demolished in the Gaza Strip [Said Khatib/AFP]

The Government Media Office in Gaza said the material losses the Gaza Strip has suffered during Israel’s current offensive amounts to more than $322m.

At least 184 residential towers, houses, and 33 media centers have been completely demolished, with a loss value of $92 million.

Additionally, more than 1,335 housing units were completely or severely demolished, and about 13,000 were partially damaged.

Israeli soldier wounded in by anti-tank missile

An Israeli soldier has been “lightly wounded” by anti-tank fire from the northern Gaza Strip directed at an empty military bus, according to an Israeli army spokesperson.

According to the army, the soldier was injured by shrapnel while standing near the bus.

Gaza death toll rises to 230

The health ministry in Gaza said 230 Palestinians have been killed by Israel over the past 11 days, including 65 children and 39 women.

At least 1,710 others have been wounded.

Thousands of dollars raised for Gaza book store destroyed in Israeli attack

A Palestinian man holds a book he removed from under the rubble of the Kuhail building which was destroyed in an early morning Israeli air strike on Gaza City on May 18, 2021 [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

A GoFundMe page that has been set up to help the owner of the Samir Mansour bookshop rebuild his store has raised more than $70,000.

The bookshop, destroyed after Israel targeted the Kuhail building in Gaza City on Monday, was known and loved by many Palestinians. Images of tattered books lay in the street, their covers ruined.

Shaaban Aslem, the owner, was interviewed after the bombing and fought back tears as he said he lost his dream.

“I’ve gone without many meals to make this dream come true,” he said.

Israeli air raid kills disabled man, pregnant wife, child

A brother weeps in front of corpses at the Deir el-Balah morgue, where Eyad Salha, a 33-year-old disabled Palestinian man in a wheelchair, his pregnant wife and their three-year-old daughter were taken after they were killed during an Israeli air strike, in the central Gaza Strip, on May 19, 2021 [Said Khatib/AFP]

An Israeli air raid on a Gaza family home has killed a Palestinian man with disabilities, his pregnant wife and their three-year-old daughter, the Gaza health ministry has said.

Eyad Salha, 33, his pregnant wife, Amani, also 33, and their daughter Nagham, three, were getting ready to eat lunch on Wednesday when a missile tore through the seaside building’s facade and destroyed all three rooms in their Deir el-Balah flat, in the central Gaza Strip.

Read more here.

Four children wounded in missile attack in Gaza City

Seven civilians, including four children, were injured in a missile strike on a house belonging to the Isleem family in al-Sabra neighbourhood in central Gaza City, local Palestinian agencies reported.

Israeli air attacks continued to target the Gaza Strip, destroying a house in al-Mashtal area northwest of Gaza City.

The Saftawi commercial thoroughfare north of the city has been targeted with a number of missiles. The entrance to the Nuseirat refugee camp was bombed, and a house in al-Bureij refugee camp was targeted.

Israel has also fired dozens of artillery shells towards homes and agricultural lands in the eastern and northern border areas of the Strip.

Israel, Hamas ceasefire could ‘come as early as Friday’, says WSJ

A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas could “come as early as Friday”, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported, citing US and foreign officials involved in the discussions.

Egyptian officials have made headway in negotiations with Hamas’s leadership, the newspaper said, while the Israeli military has privately conceded that it is nearing the completion of its objectives.

An unnamed US official told the WSJ a mechanism was in place for a ceasefire and that the “only issue is timing”.

The official also noted members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another Gaza-based armed group, remained a wild card.

Hamas official predicts a truce ‘within a day or two’

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas political official, has predicted a ceasefire within days in the Israeli-Gaza escalation.

“I think that the ongoing efforts regarding the ceasefire will succeed,” he told Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV. “I expect a ceasefire to be reached within a day or two, and the ceasefire will be on the basis of mutual agreement.”

An Egyptian security source told Reuters the sides had agreed in principle to a ceasefire after help from mediators but details were still being negotiated in secret.

One Palestinian woman killed in Gaza

At least one Palestinian was killed and 13 others were wounded in the latest Israeli air attacks on Gaza, the Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.

Huda al-Khuzindar, 32, was killed after Israeli warplanes targeted a neighbouring house belonging to the Khawaldeh family in Khan Younis.

A Wafa correspondent in Gaza said Israeli fighters jets carried out a minimum of 30 air raids that targeted roads and homes in Gaza City, Jabalia and Khan Younis.

Smoke billows following an Israeli airstrike at Gaza City on May 20, 2021 [Mohammed Abed/ AFP]

The raids caused “significant destruction” to the Saftawi highway, which links Gaza City to northern areas of the enclave, and damaged power, water and sanitation networks, the agency reported.

Palestinian groups ‘fire 80 rockets overnight’

Palestinian groups in Gaza fired 80 rockets and mortar shells towards southern Israel between 7pm on Wednesday and 7am on Thursday, the Times of Israel reported, citing the Israeli military.

The Israeli air defence system intercepted a majority of the rockets and there were no reports of injuries, according to the website.

The last rocket was launched at 1am local time, it added.

Streaks of light are seen as Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon on May 19, 2021 [Amir Cohen/ Reuters]

US opposes France’s draft UN resolution

Washington has opposed a proposed UN Security Council resolution, drafted by France, that urged a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, according to the Associated Press news agency.

A spokesperson for the US mission to the UN reiterated Washington’s stance that a public statement could interfere with Biden’s efforts to end the hostilities.

“We’ve been clear and consistent that we are focused on intensive diplomatic efforts under way to bring an end to the violence and that we will not support actions that we believe undermine efforts to de-escalate,” the spokesperson told AP on the condition of anonymity.

Diplomats said the rest of the 15-member body supported the French draft.

US Democrats urge Biden to facilitate Israel-Palestine truce

More than 130 Democratic members of the US House of Representatives called on Biden to “facilitate the immediate cessation of violence” between Israel and Hamas and to “press both sides to quickly negotiate a ceasefire”.

“The alternative is an unfolding human tragedy of unimaginable dimensions,” the letter said.

Several Palestinians wounded in Israeli raids

At least nine Palestinians were wounded in an Israeli attack on a house in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, according to medics.

Eight others were wounded in an air raid on a residential building in Jabalia in nothern Gaza.

Israel launches dozens of air raids on Gaza

Israel continued to pound the Gaza Strip with airstrikes early on Thursday.

A number of loud explosions rattled the Palestinian territory, with bright orange flashes lighting up the pre-dawn sky.

For all the developments from yesterday, May 19, go here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies