Biden hails Israel-Hamas cease-fire, sees 'opportunity'

Daniel Turjman 60 rests in a bomb shelter that is also used as a synagogue near his apartment building in Ashdod Israel

Daniel Turjman 60 rests in a bomb shelter that is also used as a synagogue near his apartment building in Ashdod Israel

People went out of their homes, some shouting "Allahu Akbar" or whistling from balconies.

Like the three previous wars between the bitter enemies, the latest round of fighting ended inconclusively. One weekend airstrike that Israel said targeted a tunnel caused several buildings to collapse and killed 42 people in the deadliest single attack of the conflict.

Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Israel, June 7, 2020. The statement boasted of "significant achievements in the operation, some of which are unprecedented" and included a veiled threat against Hamas. US State Secretary Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that Israel had given the US information about the bombing, without elaborating, adding that he had not seen any evidence of Hamas fighters there.

Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules Gaza, cast the fighting as successful resistance of a militarily and economically stronger foe.

The Palestinians view east Jerusalem, which includes major holy sites for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as their capital.

The competing claims to Jerusalem lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have repeatedly triggered bouts of violence in the past. 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.

Tuesday's rocket attack from Gaza hit a packaging plant in a region bordering the territory, killing two Thai workers. Supporters shouted "victory" and waved green Hamas flags.

The Israeli military has launched hundreds of airstrikes it says are targeting Hamas' militant infrastructure, while Palestinian militants have fired more than 3,400 rockets from civilian areas in Gaza at civilian targets in Israel.

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

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Twelve people in Israel, including a five-year-old boy, have been killed in rocket attacks so far. But as the fighting dragged on and the death toll mounted, the Americans increasingly pressured Israel to stop the offensive.

The demonstrations and ongoing violence came as moves toward a cease-fire appeared to be gaining more traction. Hamas quickly followed suit and said it would honor the deal. In another sign of potential escalation, militants in Lebanon fired a rocket barrage into northern Israel.

In Washington, Biden hailed the cease-fire. "I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress and I've committed to working for it".

Israel unleashed another wave of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip early Thursday, killing at least one Palestinian and wounding several, as it pushed ahead despite United States calls to wind down the offensive against Gaza's militant Hamas rulers, who have fired thousands of rockets at Israel. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing behind-the-scenes negotiations and provided no details.

The cease-fire comes at a sensitive time for Netanyahu.

"The needs in Gaza in particular are huge", Thomas-Greenfield said.

He said a lot of work has gone into securing the ceasefire. Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes, many of them seeking shelter in crowded United Nations schools at a time of a raging coronavirus outbreak.

Since the fighting began, Gaza's infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated.

Medical supplies, fuel and water are running low in Gaza, which is home to more than two million Palestinians and has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state.

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