Israel and Hamas agree on Gaza ceasefire to end 11 days of fighting

An Israeli soldier walks at a staging ground near the border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, May 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

An Israeli soldier walks at a staging ground near the border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, May 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Israel’s high-level security cabinet voted in favor of a ceasefire in Gaza Thursday night, potentially bringing an end to 11 deadly days of hostilities with the Hamas terror group.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said that the security cabinet had “unanimously accepted the recommendation of all security officials, the IDF chief of staff, the head of the Shin Bet, the head of the Mossad and the head of the National Security Council, to accept the Egyptian initiative for a bilateral ceasefire without any conditions, which will take effect later.”

At the same time, the statement added, “the political leadership emphasizes that it is the reality on the ground that will determine the future of the operation.”

Following the meeting, a Hamas official confirmed to the Reuters news agency a “mutual and simultaneous” ceasefire with Israel had been reached.

Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan told the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen news channel that the ceasefire will go into effect at 2 a.m.

Rockets from Gaza, on right, are seen in the night sky fired towards Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021, while Iron Dome interceptor missiles, on left, rise to meet them. (Anas Baba/AFP)

However, violence continued despite the announcement.

One person was lightly injured when a mortar shell hit a print shop in the community of Be’eri near the Gaza border, Israeli authorities said.

The shell directly hit the building, according to Fire and Rescue Services. The victim is 53 years old and was being taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, medics said.

Several salvoes of rockets and mortars were fired at communities near the border.

Palestinian media said the IDF was carrying out strikes in Gaza. There was no confirmation from the army.

Earlier, Hamdan said that Hamas had received assurances regarding Israeli policy toward Sheikh Jarrah and the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem.

Palestinian terror groups have tied the hostilities in Gaza to unrest in Jerusalem connected to both prayer on the Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the pending eviction of a number of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

“The resistance has forged a new equation and a new victory,” Hamdan said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz denied Hamas’s claims of assurances on Jerusalem as “completely false.”

The statement from the PMO said that defense officials had “reviewed with the ministers Israel’s great achievements in the campaign, some of which were unprecedented.”

The officials told the ministers that Israel had “exhausted” all of its possible military achievements in the conflict with Palestinian terror groups in Gaza, according to the Ynet news site.

“Hamas is deterred and suffered serious blows,” an official was quoted as telling the ministers.

In a statement released after the meeting, Gantz cheered the Israel Defense Forces, praising the “unprecedented military achievements in terms of forcefulness, precision and strategic importance in the fight against terror groups in the Gaza Strip” during the battle, dubbed Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Gantz said the army remained on high alert for additional attacks from Gaza and, echoing the PMO statement, said “the reality on the ground will determine the continuation of the operation.”

Rockets are launched by Palestinian terror groups into Israel from Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 19, 2021. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Shortly after the meeting, rocket alert sirens went off in Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, signaling that Hamas was planning on continuing to fire rockets at Israeli cities until the 2 a.m. deadline.

The alarms were heard in the communities of Netiv Ha’asara, Erez and Yad Mordechai. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The ministerial panel convened shortly after 7 p.m. against the backdrop of dozens of rockets fired from Gaza Thursday and continued strikes by the IDF in the coastal enclave.

Hamas and other Gaza terror groups launched nearly 3,700 rockets at Israel since May 10, at times forcing people living near Gaza into bomb shelters around the clock. Israel, in response, carried out an extensive bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says 232 people, including more than 66 minors, have been killed by Israeli strikes over the past 10 days. According to the IDF, more than 120 of those killed were members of Hamas and over 25 were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as of Monday night. The IDF also says some of the Gaza civilian fatalities were killed by the terror groups’ own rockets falling short and exploding in Gaza.

Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, have been killed in rocket fire, and hundreds have been injured. Hamas and other Gaza terror groups have fired over 4,000 rockets and other projectiles at Israel.

A ball of fire erupts from a building in Gaza City’s Rimal residential district on May 20, 2021, during an Israeli bombardment on the Hamas-controlled enclave following rocket fire (BASHAR TALEB / AFP)

The ministerial meeting came amid mixed reports about the progress of ceasefire talks to end hostilities. According to Al-Jazeera, Israel had informed Egypt — which was mediating the talks between the Jewish state and Hamas — that it was willing to halt its military campaign.

Talks continued after US President Joe Biden urged a “significant de-escalation” by the end of Wednesday while Netanyahu vowed to push on until the military campaign reaches its objective — “to restore quiet and security” for Israelis.

The US, a key Israel ally, has repeatedly blocked the adoption of a joint UN Security Council statement calling for a halt to hostilities, saying it could undermine efforts to de-escalate the crisis. Earlier this week, France began circulating a Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Shortly before the announcement of the ceasefire, the White House said that President Joe Biden spoke earlier Thursday with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

A statement said that the two leaders discussed “efforts to achieve a ceasefire that will bring an end to the current hostilities in Israel and Gaza.”

Aaron Boxerman and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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by Gerald Chester

In his gospel record, the first-century physician Luke quoted Jesus:
“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and
love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the
other. You cannot serve both God and Money” Luke 16:13 (NIV).
Hence the worship of God and money are mutually exclusive.
Please note that I did not say that God and money are mutually
exclusive, but rather the worship of God and money are
mutually exclusive.

Most of us do not consider ourselves to be worshippers of money.
Instead, we claim to be worshippers of God. But if Amy Domini is
correct and the signs and symbols of the culture reveal what people
really value and therefore worship, do the signs confirm that we
are worshippers of money?

Consider the following signs:

Sign #1: Success is denominated in terms of money. When the
label “successful” is applied to a person, we are commonly referring
to his or her financial success. Unless the person is an outright
criminal like Bernie Madoff, the level of success that one enjoys
is directly proportional to one’s financial fortune.

Sign #2: Americans live as consumers, not stewards. This is so
obvious to the workplace that business pundits have labeled
Americans as “consumers.” Furthermore, our economy is built on
consumption; hence, when personal consumption drops, so does
the economy.

Sign #3: An entitlement mentality has emerged in America regarding
the right to a certain standard of living, disaster aid, health care,
and financial safety. Most people expect the government to care
for them if something goes wrong and when they get old. There is
no compelling reason to responsibly save money or to help each other.

Sign #4: Almost everyone chooses their work based on money.
People, as a general rule, accept jobs and leave jobs to make
more money. Any other factors that might be considered are secondary.

Sign #5: Money, for the most part, dictates where people choose
to live. Most people determine the largest mortgage they qualify
for and shop for a home that will match that mortgage. Because
of this, many people live “house poor,” meaning that they cannot
adequately furnish, decorate and/or maintain their homes. Further-
more, because people live on the edge financially, when economic
stress comes they often lose their homes through foreclosure.

As I consider these signs, I am persuaded that money is very
important to people-far more important than God. Having been
active in Christianity for more than fifty years, my anecdotal
observation is that God is important to people for a few hours each
week on Sunday, but the rest of the time most people focus on
money. Money defines who we are-how we view and use money,
our social standing, our public policy, where we work, and how we
live. Where is God in all of this?

As noted above, one of the rules of God’s universe is that people
cannot worship both God and money-a choice has to be made.
Sadly, few seem to understand this reality-many professing
Christians display the signs noted above, which means that they
are trying to worship God and money.

Let us be clear: when we break God’s rules, there will be
consequences. Note the words of the apostle Paul in Galatians 6:7:
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what
he sows” [NIV]. It is deception to think that we can sow seeds of
rebellion by violating God’s laws and not have consequences. Yet,
this is what we are doing. We think that we can worship God and
money, but God has said that we can’t…

The popular paradigm of present-day Christianity focuses on getting
people to make a decision for Christ as if one decision is all that
we need to make. This implies that all other decisions can be
made without Christ. When you read the New Testament, it is
abundantly clear the apostle Paul viewed Christ and his teachings
as the basis for making all decisions (e.g., Colossians 2).

About a year ago, I heard a speaker say that he was not trying to
get people to make a decision for Christ, rather he was trying to
get them to make every decision for Christ. This is the biblical perspective.

I think the signs of the times are clear. The professing Christian
community, particularly in North America, has abandoned the
worship of Christ and chosen to worship commerce (i.e., money).
This choice will have undesirable consequences. Perhaps the
current economic calamity is part of the consequences.

Hosea 13:2 reads: “Now they [the Israelites] sin more and more;
they make idols for themselves from their silver, cleverly fashioned
images, all of them the work of craftsmen . . .” (NIV). Note that the
craftsmen (i.e., the workplace) simply accommodated the wishes
of the people. The real driver in a culture is the worldview of the
people. The workplace and public policy of culture merely reflect
the people’s worldview. If the people choose to worship God, then
the workplace and public policy will worship God. And if the
people choose to worship money, the workplace and public policy
will also worship money.

Choosing to worship money instead of God will lead to judgment
(see Deuteronomy 28). But if people repent and worship the one
true God, then there will be blessings. So the choice is ours-
commerce (i.e., money) or Christ-what will it be?

Know this: because of the sin of man, the default answer is
commerce. So if you want to change, truly change, you have to
proactively engage in rejecting the worship of money and choose Christ…