Cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas after a devastating 11-day offensive is seen as a victory by Hamas.
A ceasefire agreement reached between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip appeared to be holding, but there have been tensions in occupied East Jerusalem where Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and fired tear gas at Palestinians after Friday prayers.
The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into effect in the early hours of Friday after 11 days of relentless Israeli bombing of the besieged enclave and thousands of rockets launched into Israel by Hamas, the group governing the Strip.
Thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank poured onto the streets to celebrate the ceasefire, waving flags and flashing the “V” sign for victory.
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza killed at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, and brought widespread devastation to the already impoverished territory.
On the Israeli side, 12 people, including two children, were killed.
Here are the latest updates:
A tense calm prevailed in Gaza City, more than 24 hours after a ceasefire came into effect between Israel, Hamas and other allied Palestinian groups.
Several residents, however, reported the “loud” buzzing of Israeli drones “everywhere over Gaza”.
Ceasefire announced, but drones still hover intensively over Gaza #Gaza
— Farah Baker (@Farah_Gazan) May 21, 2021
Drones buzzing is very loud in every area in Gaza!
— Muhammad Smiry 🇵🇸 (@MuhammadSmiry) May 21, 2021
Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, told Al Jazeera “there are no guarantees” that the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas would hold.
“There are no guarantees at all. No guarantees at all. Because, Israel proclaims that the ceasefire is unilateral. That they have taken that decision on their own,” al-Maliki said in an exclusive interview.
But contrary to Israeli claims, Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations played important roles in negotiating the truce, he said.
“And all of them combined were able to get the consent of all parties to this fight and we got that that approval.”
Israeli police beat an AFP photographer covering Friday’s crackdown at al-Aqsa mosque, the news agency said.
It did not provide further details.
Thousands of people demonstrated on Friday in Jordan to celebrate the “victory of the resistance” against Israel.
Responding to a call by the Muslim Brotherhood, some 10,000 people, according to AFP journalists, gathered in the Sweimeh region near the border with the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Demonstrators carried banners reading: “Jerusalem is the symbol of victory”, “congratulations on the victory of the resistance” and “the resilience of Gaza led to victory”.
Martin Indyk, a distinguished fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, former US special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and US ambassador to Israel, told Al Jazeera on Friday he sees little room for diplomatic progress following the ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Indyk said Hamas and Israel and are still opposed.
“Is there a potential for negotiation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA)? Part of the problem … is we’ve been there, we’ve tried that. I myself was involved in the last effort in 2014. And it ended in failure.”
There's that word "equal" again in @potus Biden's remarks yesterday on the Middle East: "I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy." https://t.co/omAmXGx1oj
— Martin Indyk (@Martin_Indyk) May 21, 2021
Those efforts partly failed because the PA “was reluctant to make any type of concessions” with Israel that could be portrayed as a betrayal by Hamas.
Indyk said Palestinian youth, who are spearheading a nonviolent movement for equal rights in Israel and to be treated fairly under occupation in the West Bank, could find international favour.
“But I don’t see Palestinian leadership getting behind that,” Indyk said.
Al Jazeera’s White House correspondent Kimberly Halkett said on Friday that while President Joe Biden reaffirmed his support of Israel, that position is likely to raise further challenges.
“The challenge for Joe Biden is that many in his party see US support for Israel and not also for the Palestinians in equal measure to be somewhat … hypocritical and not in line with the sort of social justice” focus “this administration promised.
“So, as a result, the challenges to this White House are growing by the day”.
US President Joe Biden said during a joint news conference at the White House with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, “There is no shift in my commitment, commitment to the security of Israel. Period. No shift, not at all.”
However, “we still need a two-state solution”, Biden said, callling it, “the only answer.”
Biden said Democrats still support Israel, even though high-profile progressives like Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, whose family is from the occupied West Bank, have been critical of Israel.
He acknowledged Gaza needs help and said he is prepared “to attempt to put together a major package with other nations who share our view to rebuild the homes” destroyed in Gaza without “providing Hamas the opportunity to rebuild their weapon system”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone on Friday with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and discussed measures to ensure the ceasefire that came into effect between Palestinians and Israelis holds, the State Department said Friday.
I spoke with Palestinian Authority President Abbas today and discussed measures to ensure that the ceasefire holds. I also conveyed the U.S. commitment to work with the Palestinian Authority and the UN to provide rapid humanitarian assistance.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 21, 2021
Blinken told Abbas the US was committed to working with the PA and the United Nations to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and mobilise international support for the reconstruction of Gaza, the State Department said in a statement.
Blinken and Abbas said they were committed to keeping lines of communication open.
Sudan has welcomed the declaration of a ceasefire, its foreign ministry has said, adding that it appreciated the Egyptian, regional and international efforts to reach this agreement.
In a statement, the ministry called on the international community, “and the American administration in particular”, to prevent any recurrence of what it said were deliberate violations and attacks on the rights of the Palestinian people.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has called for food, health and psychosocial support for Palestinians sheltering at UNRWA schools in Gaza. There are 65,000 displaced people in emergency UNRWA shelters.
“The ongoing 14-year long blockade of Gaza causes for the continued lack of medicine and aid, while physical distancing to prevent COVID-19 transmission remains almost impossible amid the ongoing internal displacement caused by the latest airstrikes,” it said in a statement.
Concerns have continued to mount over the deteriorating situation for Gaza residents, where power is only available for six to eight hours per day. This has disrupted the provision of healthcare and other basic services, including water, hygiene, and sanitation.
— UNRWA (@UNRWA) May 21, 2021
“Concerns have continued to mount over the deteriorating situation for Gaza residents, where power is only available for six to eight hours per day. This has disrupted the provision of healthcare and other basic services, including water, hygiene, and sanitation,” it said.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has condemned what he called Israeli aggression in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip during a phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
King Salman also said the kingdom will keep reaching out to all parties to put pressure on Israel’s “occupation government”.
Saudi Arabia earlier welcomed the declaration of a ceasefire and said it appreciates Egyptian and international mediation efforts, state news agency (SPA) said, citing a Foreign Ministry statement.
The statement reaffirmed the kingdom’s continuation of efforts with allies to reach a resolution.
Malak Mattar, an artist in Gaza city says that after the ceasefire, there is a sense of relief for her and her family.
“We are feeling relieved. We are finally able to get long hours of sleep which is something that we’ve been deprived of for the past 10 or 11 days, so it’s such a good thing that we are feeling safe, that there are no bombardments,” Mattar said.
“We are able now to get food supplies … so, we are feeling relieved.”
James Bays, Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor, reporting from West Jerusalem says that the resolution calling for a ceasefire has now been rewritten with the focus on humanitarian access, and getting all humanitarian aid into Gaza.
The spokesperson for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also said in New York at the UN headquarters that “fundamental political issues have to be addressed,” Bays said.
“The UN believes that is time now to look at the fundamental problems, and at the peace process.
“The big question is whether the US also shares that view because the Biden administration has been in office now for four months, and this – until the conflict erupted – was not one of the priorities. They were looking at Afghanistan, climate change, the Iran nuclear deal, and this long-running conflict was right down their list of priorities,” Bays said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi has told his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry that Israel was eager to maintain calm, Egypt has said in a statement.
Shoukry and Ashkenazi also discussed measures to facilitate the rebuilding of Gaza in the coming stage, the statement said.
White House spokesperson Jen Psaki has said the United States has “strong assurances” from “relevant parties” that they are committed to a ceasefire.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has received a phone call from US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Abbas’s office says the two discussed the latest developments. The Palestinian leader urged the Biden administration to pressure Israel to halt the violence in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
The statement said Abbas appreciated US efforts to “provide humanitarian aid and mobilise the international support necessary for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, in coordination with the Palestinian Authority”.
The owner of a Gaza building housing international media that was destroyed in an Israeli air raid is lodging a complaint with the International Criminal Court, his lawyer has said.
The complaint by Jawad Mehdi says that the attack on May 15 which flattened al-Jala tower, housing the offices of US news agency Associated Press and Al Jazeera television, was a “war crime”.
The filing, a copy of which was seen by AFP, comes after the chief prosecutor of the ICC said last week that “crimes” may have been committed during the recent violence.
“The owner of this building, who is a Palestinian, has mandated his lawyers to file a war crime complaint with the International Criminal Court,” lawyer Gilles Devers said in a statement.
In occupied East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid says political opponents are questioning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s motives to go to war.
“Some of them are saying that it was just because the prime minister … is politically in battle. He hasn’t been able to form any kind of coalition governments in four elections in less than two years, so he was trying to get some personal political gain through this war,” Abdel-Hamid said.
“Others say why did we [launch] this war since we didn’t finish it off. Some of the far-right groups would have preferred to see a ground invasion, would have preferred to see much more decisive action against Hamas.
“And then you have the military leadership … [who] are questioning what was the purpose of this military operation, and if Hamas was really weakened to the extent that is said.”
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said while the war in Gaza is over, tensions are still running high everywhere else.
“There is a ceasefire but that ceasefire really concerns only Gaza. All the rest of the issues between the two sides are very much there,” Abdel-Hamid said.
“Today, people were also celebrating and they had a sigh of relief that the war in Gaza is over, but the tensions are still very much there.”
At the UN briefing in New York, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said the truce has allowed much-needed humanitarian aide to reach Gaza following a partial reopening of the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom in Hebrew) crossing.
“Today, 13 humanitarian trucks with food, COVID-19 vaccines, medical disposables and drugs, including emergency medicines, first aid kits for multiple UN agencies and NGO partners crossed into Gaza following the partial reopening of the Kerem Shalom crossing,” Dujarric said.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei has called on Muslim states to support Palestinians militarily and financially and help rebuild Gaza, Iranian media has reported.
“Muslim states must sincerely support the Palestinian people, through military … or financial support … or in rebuilding Gaza’s infrastructure,” Khamenei said in a statement carried by media outlets.
He urged Muslims to demand that their governments back Palestinians.
Muslim states should earnestly enter the field to support the Palestinian nation in both military and financial aspects as well as for reconstructing infrastructures and rebuilding the ruins in #Gaza. Muslim nations should demand that their governments carry out this duty.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 21, 2021
At a UN briefing in New York, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said both sides must “show restraint” and that the status quo at the holy sites must be respected.
“In these situations, both political leaders, religious leaders have a responsibility to speak out against anyone who disrupts peace. And we should all stand firmly against incitement and violence, especially in such a tense environment,” Dujarric said.
It was unclear what sparked Friday’s violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Police fired stun grenades and tear gas, and Palestinians hurled rocks after hundreds took part in a celebratory demonstration in which they waved Palestinian and Hamas flags. Israeli police said they arrested 16 people.
In response to Israeli attacks on Palestinian worshipers at Al-Aqsa, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has said Israel continues an “insincere and hypocritical” attitude.
“Ceasefire in Gaza, #Attack in Jerusalem! Israel’s insincere, hypocritical attitude continues. This atrocity, which limits freedom of belief and worship, must now come to an end!” the ministry said on Twitter.
Members of the Jewish community and allies have gathered at the Israeli consulate in Toronto to protest against Israel’s violence in Gaza and across historic Palestine, Canadian organisations World Beyond War and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) have said in a statement.
“This belligerence is the latest in an ongoing aggressive 73-year settler-colonisation project by Israel across historic Palestine,” Rabbi David Mivasair, a member of IJV said. “The ceasefire doesn’t end the injustice and oppression.”
Rabbi Mivasair quoted the Book of Genesis saying: “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the earth.
“Canadian Jews and others joined today to make sure that cry is heard even if the blood stops being spilled anew. Red paint streaming from the Israeli consulate onto the street in Toronto represents the blood of massacred innocent Palestinian civilians, the blood on Israel’s hands. As Canadians, we demand that our government holds Israel accountable for war crimes and stops the Canada-Israel arms trade,” Mivasair said.
Fabrizio Carboni, regional director for the Near and Middle East at the International Committee of the Red Cross, has estimated there are “several hundred” pieces of unexploded ordnance strewn about in Gaza and said medical supplies were a pressing need.
Matthias Schmale, Gaza director for UNRWA, the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees, cited a “window” of several hours on Friday during which aid and supplies could be brought in through the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom in Hebrew) crossing point into Gaza.
Speaking by video from Gaza City, he noted that a central laboratory that carries out testing for COVID-19 had been “made dysfunctional by a massive bomb explosion”.
He said the ceasefire feels “fragile” and lamented the “unbearable and unacceptable cost this has had for the civilian population. And I know that applies to people in Israel, too.”
According to Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara, the ceasefire is still fragile but for the time being, it could hold.
Details are still left to be worked out, “in the sense of how much will the Egyptians and others be able to survey the implementation of the ceasefire,” Bishara said.
“For the time being, this could hold. Unfortunately in terms of the deadlock, we are back where we were before the war, so you would wonder why the escalation in the first place, and what’s the point of yet another war when the results are … to be more of the same because we’ve already been at it three times before.
“For this to be repeated again this year with such a huge human cost is so counterproductive that you would wonder what must happen now for this not to be repeated, and as you would say some sort of a political solution.”
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, says the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound by Israeli police was unexpected and reflects how fragile the ceasefire can be.
“The Israeli police say that some of the youth that were at the complex of Al-Aqsa were throwing stones at the Israeli police. However, Palestinians are saying that they had been harassed since the very early hours when they were arriving towards the mosque. They were surrounded by the police and they felt a lot of pressure,” Abdel-Hamid said.
“I think this is just telling about how things are going to go ahead and how fragile the ceasefire can be, in the sense that Hamas clearly said that it has gotten guarantees that there wouldn’t be any more tensions around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound or in Sheikh Jarrah. That hasn’t materialised so far.”
Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, says many Palestinians are highlighting their unity as the most important victory.
“[People] were telling us that Hamas was able to unite the Palestinian people under the resistance flag,” Ibrahim said.
Palestinians say they are happy with the general strike held on Tuesday as it united Palestinians living in Israel, in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, she said.
“They were striking in one day which is the first time in decades that they were able to do that … many people tell us that it’s clear now that Israel doesn’t understand the language of peace, the language of negotiation, but rather the language of force.”
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Gaza, says the atmosphere in the strip is mixed.
“There is a genuine celebratory feeling because of what has happened, what Haniya was referring to as a victory, and he also referred to it as a first preparatory battle. There could be bigger battles for Jerusalem to come, so the idea of fighting a battle for Jerusalem still holds that kind of power over people, and they are celebrating,” Fawcett said.
“But they are also picking up the devastation of the last 11 days … there are homes all over Gaza that have been destroyed. The latest figures we have is 1,000 individual homes have been completely destroyed, 700 have been severely damaged, and another 14,000 home units have been partially damaged.
“[There is a] ratio of about more than six people per home in this town and in the strip, that’s more than 80,000 people who have lost their homes or had their homes seriously or partially damaged. That is a major catastrophe for this community.”
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said that Hamas is selling itself to Palestinians as “the ones that are able to come to the defence”.
“If we are going to take away anything from this, is that Hamas [is] now selling [itself] as the saviour of the Palestinian people, and it is up to the Palestinian people to support them. That’s the overarching message that Hamas is trying to get out,” Khan said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has tallied “significant trauma needs” in Gaza.
WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said a total of 8,538 people had been injured across Gaza during the violence, and 30 health facilities had been damaged – with one clinic fully destroyed and another sustaining significant damage. She said damage to infrastructure was impeding the access of ambulances.
The comments to a UN briefing in Geneva came as humanitarian aid workers assessed the fallout from the latest fighting.
The delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Israel and the occupied territories said on Twitter that it is “relieved” to see the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom in Hebrew) crossing into Gaza open today and that they “were able to bring in medical supplies and equipment for Palestine Red Crescent Society and hospitals”.
“More will be needed in the coming days,” it said.
Relieved to see that Kerem Shalom crossing to Gaza was open today and we were able to bring in medical supplies and equipment for @PalestineRCS and hospitals.
More will be needed in the coming days. pic.twitter.com/4e6k732iY5
— ICRC in Israel & OT (@ICRC_ilot) May 21, 2021
The Israeli attack on Gaza spurred protests in the US, but experts say Joe Biden hopes to put the issue on the back burner.
Read the story here.
Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, says that protests are still continuing with confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinians.
“Dozens of Palestinians said that even if this round of escalations end, the occupation is still there … and they still want to fight it.
“They believe that Israel has asked the Palestinians for a ceasefire, so for them, this is a moral victory that they have achieved, and they want to build on it and go to the streets,” Ibrahim said.
The Israeli army has responded to protests by firing rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition. According to medical sources, three Palestinians were injured by live fire, and 40 Palestinians were injured in confrontations that are still continuing, Ibrahim added.
Palestinians living in the flashpoint neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem say they have been placed “under a siege” by Israeli authorities.
Read about it here.
Israel’s pounding of Gaza has cast the Abraham Accords in a poor light, but many see relations between Israel, the UAE and other signatories staying on track.
Read about it here.
Youmna al-Sayed, reporting from Gaza, said Hamas leader Ismail Haniya’s address to Palestinians in Gaza aimed to make them feel better “despite the destruction around them”.
“For Ismail Haniya, he transfers the image that Hamas has won a great victory over Israel in this aggression and that the Palestinian resistance was up to the battle until the end, it was able to stand and [inflict] pain on the Israeli occupation.”
Haniya’s message that Hamas has won the battle in Gaza, Sheikh Jarrah and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is something that “people really want to hear,” al-Sayed said.
“They want the Palestinian resistance to win in this aggression. After all, [many] have lost their homes and a lot of people were killed and injured and they don’t want all that to be in vain. This is exactly what people want to hear.”
Israeli forces have injured dozens of Palestinian worshipers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem.
The attacks wounded some 20 people, according to a written statement by the Palestine Red Crescent. Two of the injured were taken to a nearby hospital, the group said.
— Palestine PLO-NAD (@nadplo) May 21, 2021
A delegation from Egyptian intelligence has arrived in Gaza just hours after a ceasefire was announced between Palestinian resistance groups and Israel.
A Palestinian source told Anadolu Agency that the Egyptian delegation entered Gaza via the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing with Israel to meet with leaders from Hamas in order to follow up the ceasefire commitments.
The delegation is headed by Ahmed Abdel Khaleq, a top Egyptian intelligence officer responsible for the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israeli police have stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Witnesses inside the compound said that after Friday prayers many Palestinians stayed at the premises to celebrate the ceasefire between Hamas and the Israeli government.
“They were singing and chanting when a contingent of the Israeli police [stationed] next to the compound came into the compound and started using crowd-control measures that they use all the time, including stun grenades, smoke bombs and tear gas,” Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said.
“They started firing in that crowd in an effort to try and disperse them.”
Rescue workers have pulled the bodies of nine Palestinians including a child, from under the rubble in Gaza, local media said.
Eight of them were retrieved from under the debris of their houses in al-Qarara area, northeast of Khan Younis city, while the three-year-old girl was found under the ruins of her family house in Tal al-Hawa, south of Gaza City.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Hamas rulers against any further rocket attacks following a ceasefire.
In a speech hours after the truce took effect, he said, “If Hamas thinks we will tolerate a drizzle of rockets, it is wrong.” He promised to respond with “a new level of force against any expression of aggression against communities around Gaza and any other part of Israel”.
Netanyahu also hailed Israel’s 11-day bombardment of Gaza as “an exceptional success”.
Turkey will continue to show the world how the map of Palestine has changed since the start of the Israeli occupation, said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“The whole world should know what this terror state of Israel is,” Erdogan said at the opening ceremony of the seventh section of the North Marmara Motorway.
Highlighting Thursday’s UN General Assembly meeting on the crisis, Erdogan said a “successful session” was held under the presidency of Volkan Bozkir, a Turkish diplomat, and with the attendance of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, as well as other foreign ministers who stand together on the issue.
“They talked about how Palestine was occupied by this terror state of Israel since 1947, and was turned into a (small) piece of land today,” Erdogan said.
Israeli air raids on Gaza damaged at least 51 education facilities, including 46 schools, two kindergartens, a UN training centre, and parts of the Islamic University of Gaza, according to the United Nations’ latest humanitarian report.
At least 66,000 people are still sheltering in 58 UN-run schools across the Gaza Strip. Israeli raids also damaged at least six hospitals and 11 primary healthcare centres, including Gaza’s only COVID-19 testing laboratory that was left inoperable following an Israeli attack that hit a nearby building on May 17.
Gaza’s electricity network also suffered damage, leading to 20-21 hours of daily power outages. This has affected water and sanitation facilities across the Strip, leaving at least 250,000 people without access to drinking water.
Read the full story here.
Emergency workers recovered five bodies and rescued around 10 survivors from the rubble of what appeared to be a tunnel in Gaza hit by Israeli air raids, medics and witnesses told AFP news agency.
Raed al-Dahshan, deputy head of Gaza’s civil defence, said they were still sifting through the rubble to find more bodies, hours after the ceasefire.
Hundreds of demonstrators in Japan’s capital, Tokyo, gathered near the Israeli embassy to show their support for Palestinians.
“I live in Japan, so what can I do other than to come here to express myself from my heart? Today is a work day for me, but I gave up my work today because we have to come here,” Omar, an Algerian businessman, told Al Jazeera.
“The minimum thing we can do is to use our voices to tell them, ‘You are not alone’,” he said.
Save the Children welcomed the news of a ceasefire, but urged countries to address the causes of the latest escalation that killed 65 children in Gaza and two in Israel.
“An end to the fighting, does not mean an end to children’s suffering,” said Jason Lee, Save the Children’s country director in the occupied Palestinian territory.
“Many will live with the mental, emotional and physical scars all their lives. Steps must be taken to immediately lift the blockade, which has been the root cause of the persistent denial of the rights of children in Gaza,” said Lee.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian welcomed the ceasefire, and said France was determined to play a key role in trying to secure a political solution to the crisis.
Police in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh have arrested a Muslim man who had appealed on social media to hoist the Palestinian flag on homes and vehicles in a show of solidarity against the Israeli offensive on Gaza.
Azamgarh district’s senior superintendent of police Sudhir Kumar Singh told Al Jazeera that they have arrested the man, identified as Yasir Akhtar, after he posted a message on his Facebook page, calling residents in his Saraimeer village to display the flag after the congregational prayers on Friday.
Read the full story here.
Leila Barhoum, a humanitarian worker and human rights advocate based in Gaza, said Palestinians are used to ceasefires.
“We always get to a ceasefire, it’s just a question of when and what will be the loss until then,” Barhoum told Al Jazeera.
“It’s really disappointing that only after 11 days the international community put out some efforts for the ceasefire to take place,” she said.
World leaders’ messages welcoming the truce are always the same, Barhoum argued, while a “strong effort” for a long lasting peace was never put in place.
“I try to remember a year when we had a good life, and I can’t trace one to go back to,” she said. “So peace became a dream, even a theory, that we try to achieve,” she said.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas joined a chorus of leaders welcoming the ceasefire.
“Good that there is now a ceasefire,” Maas tweeted, a day after he visited Israel and the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank for talks. “Now we have to deal with the causes, rebuild trust and find a solution to the Middle East conflict,” he said.
German Lufthansa , Austrian Airlines and Swiss aim to resume flights to Tel Aviv, Lufthansa said.
Lufthansa had said on May 13 that it was suspending all flights to Tel Aviv due to the escalating conflict.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi saying that he intends to visit the region “soon,” according to the Israeli foreign minister.
“I welcomed his decision and told him that we would welcome him warmly and that I look forward to continuing our discussions on advancing regional strategic issues for maintaining Israel’s security and regional stability,” Ashkenazi added on Twitter.
@SecBlinken informed me that he intends to visit the region soon.
I welcomed his decision & told him that we would welcome him warmly & that I look forward to continuing our discussions on advancing regional strategic issues for maintaining Israel's security & regional stability
— גבי אשכנזי – Gabi Ashkenazi (@Gabi_Ashkenazi) May 21, 2021
Al Jazeera’s Youmna al-Sayed, reporting from Gaza City, said Palestinians began celebrating as soon as the ceasefire came into effect.
“They started cheering and cheering ‘God is Great’,” she said. “And for them today, it’s considered actually the first day of the Eid al-Fitr religious festival since the aggression started before the last day of Ramadan and they didn’t really get to celebrate Eid.”
Standing in the middle of ruins of a bombarded home, al-Sayed said displaced families had already returned from the United Nations-run schools they had taken shelter in “because of the very bad humanitarian conditions” they faced there.
“There was no water, no electricity and they went there taking nothing with them,” she said. “But these people now in these circumstances are compounded by the crisis of the very high poverty and unemployment rates in the Gaza Strip, as well as the restrictions in regards to the reconstruction materials that are allowed to enter the Strip. They have no alternative but to wait for the funding of the construction of their homes again.”
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, welcomed the ceasefire deal and urged both sides to build on it.
“I urge both sides to consolidate it and stabilise the situation in the long term. Only a political solution will bring lasting peace and security to all,” Von der Leyen tweeted.
I welcome the cease-fire that came into force today at 2am between Israel and Hamas.
I urge both sides to consolidate it and stabilise the situation in the long term.
Only a political solution will bring lasting peace and security to all.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 21, 2021
The news of the truce was also welcomed by the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, who said that European institutions stand ready to “fully support” a “sustainable peace”.
Welcome the announced ceasefire bringing to an end the violence in and around Gaza.
Only a political solution will bring sustainable peace & end once for all the conflict. EU stands ready to fully support Israeli & Palestinian authorities in these effortshttps://t.co/wVevV9kNJM
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) May 21, 2021
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).
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.”
A Hamas official has told Reuters news agency that Israel must end its violations in occupied East 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 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,” said Ezzat El-Reshiq, a member of the Hamas political bureau.
El-Reshiq said the movement’s demands also include protecting the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and ending the forced expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem which he described as “a red line”.
“What comes after the battle of the ‘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,” El-Reshiq said.
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” due 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.
More pictures are coming in of Palestinians celebrating Friday’s ceasefire.
For all the developments from May 20, click here.