Israel and Hamas have agreed to a cease-fire in Gaza after a week of rocket fire and retaliatory Israeli air strikes left at least 100 Palestinians and three Israelis dead, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday.
Clinton made the announcement alongside her Egyptian counterpart after a flurry of meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian officials as well as UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said the truce would take effect at 9 p.m. local time, speaking to reporters in Cairo.
Clinton vowed to pursue a “comprehensive peace,” suggesting the Obama administration will rekindle two-state peace talks that have been frozen for the past three years over disagreements about Israeli settlements and future borders.
The announcement came after Clinton met with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and discussed ways that “Egypt and the US could work together to support the next steps” in the process.
“In the days ahead, the United States will work with partners across the region to consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people of Gaza, and provide security for the people of Israel,” Clinton said. “Ultimately, every step must move us toward a comprehensive peace for all the people of the region.”
President Obama also spoke to Morsi by phone on Wednesday. The president thanked his counterpart for his "efforts to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and for his personal leadership in negotiating a ceasefire proposal," according to a read-out of the call. The two leaders "agreed on the importance of working toward a more durable solution to the situation in Gaza" and Obama "reaffirmed the close partnership between the United States and Egypt, and welcomed President Morsi's commitment to regional security."
The cease-fire diminishes the risk of a bloody Israeli invasion of the densely populated Gaza strip, at least temporarily. The recent surge in violence started last Wednesday after Israel killed the Hamas' top military commander, Ahmed Jabari, following a recent uptick in rocket fire from Gaza.
“There is no substitute for a just and
lasting peace," Clinton said. "Now that there is a cease-fire, I am looking forward to
working with the foreign minister and others to move this process.”
The likelihood of a truce had appeared to grow more distant earlier in the day after the first terrorist bombing in Israel in six years injured more than a dozen people on a Tel Aviv bus. Hamas, which runs the government in Gaza, denied responsibility for the bombing even though it blessed the attack and called it a “natural response” to Israeli “massacres” in Gaza.
“The United States strongly condemns this terrorist attack and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the people of Israel,” Clinton said in a statement from Egypt, vowing that the United States “stands ready to provide any assistance that Israel requires.”
In her meeting with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, Clinton expressed her “heartfelt concern for innocent lives lost, both Palestinian and Israeli, and for all wounded,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland tweeted Wednesday. She also “expressed appreciation for President Abbas’ leadership in encouraging the restoration of calm.”
Last updated at 1:25 p.m.