The truce brokered by Egypt was announced following mounting international pressure to end 11 days of conflict that has claimed more than 200 Palestinian lives.

Palestinians in Gaza celebrate after a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas comes into force. May 21, 2021.
Palestinians in Gaza celebrate after a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas comes into force. May 21, 2021. (AA)

A highly anticipated ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza has officially went into effect.

Only celebratory gunfire was heard on Gaza streets, AFP journalists said, after the Egypt-brokered ceasefire began at 2am local time (2300 GMT) on Friday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal after a late-night meeting of his Security Cabinet. Hamas quickly followed suit and said it would honour the deal.

In a statement, Netanyahu's office said the Security Cabinet unanimously approved the proposal after recommendations from the military chief of staff and other top defence officials.

“The political leaders emphasized that the reality on the ground will determine the future of the campaign,” the statement said.

Two Egyptian security delegations will be sent to monitor the ceasefire deal, diplomatic sources told AFP.

The delegations will be sent to Tel Aviv and the Palestinian territories to "monitor [the ceasefire's] implementation and procedures to maintain stable conditions permanently."

The Egyptian-mediated "simultaneous and mutual ceasefire" is to come into force at 2300 GMT on Thursday, the sources said, confirming announcements by Israel and Palestinian armed groups.

American involvement

US President Joe Biden said that Netanyahu informed him that Israel agreed to a "mutual, unconditional ceasefire to begin in less than two hours."

The president said he spoke with Netanyahu six times, as well as with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority as part of his intense diplomatic engagement.

Biden also said the US remains committed to working with the UN and other international stakeholders to provide rapid humanitarian assistance an d international support for Gazans and Gaza reconstruction efforts.

"I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy," he added.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken "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," the State Department said.

READ MORE: Israel bombards Gaza as expectations for ceasefire mount

"A victory to the Palestinian people”

Taher Nounou, a Hamas official, confirmed the deal. “The Palestinian resistance will commit itself to this deal as long as the occupation is committed,” he said.

Ali Barakeh, a member of Hamas’ Arab and Islamic relations bureau, told The Associated Press that the declaration of a truce was a defeat for Netanyahu and “a victory to the Palestinian people.”

Hamas officials have said that they have been contacted by officials from Russia, Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations to reach a ceasefire with Israel. 

Israel's air strikes and artillery assaults on the besieged Palestinian enclave have killed 232 people, including 65 children, as aerial bombardments worsen Gaza's already dire humanitarian situation.

Israel's bombing campaign has left the two million population in Gaza, under Israeli blockade for 14 years, desperate for relief.

Hospitals have been overwhelmed, and some 75,000 civilians have fled their homes, seeking refuge in UN-run schools and other public buildings, the United Nations says.

The UN chief Antonio Guterres and representatives of several other states have urged an immediate halt to the violence in Palestine at the start of a General Assembly emergency meeting on Thursday before the ceasefire announcement. 

"If there is a hell on earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza today,” UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres said as he called for urgent de-escalation of violence against Palestine. 

"I was horrified by reports that nine members of one family were killed in the Al Shati refugee camp," in Gaza, Guterres said in his address at the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday said that people "urgently need respite from non-stop hostilities."

"People in Gaza – exhausted from sleepless nights, from constant fear, worry and grief – need a window during which they can go outside and about their business without fear of being killed or injured, or of witnessing death," Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC director for the Near and Middle East, said in a statement.

Israeli attacks have also damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organization said. Nearly half of all essential drugs have run out.

The Israeli military says more than 3,700 rockets have been fired since May 10, with hundreds falling short and landing inside Gaza.

Gaza’s rockets are mostly repurposed handmade weapons in comparison to Israel’s military might, which gets over $16 billion for defence spending and $3.8 billion from the US annually for a 10-year period.

READ MORE: UN chief urges end to Israel assault as Gaza ‘hell on earth for children’

Source: TRTWorld and agencies