World leaders have hailed a ceasefire that took hold in the early hours of Friday morning, and vowed to help rebuild Gaza after an Israeli bombing campaign that killed more than 230 people and Palestinian rocket attacks that killed 12 in Israel.
The United Nations secretary general urged Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers to observe the ceasefire and called on global leaders to develop a reconstruction package “that supports the Palestinian people and strengthens their institutions”.
Antonio Guterres said after Thursday’s announcement of an end to 11 days of clashes that “Israeli and Palestinian leaders have a responsibility beyond the restoration of calm to start a serious dialogue to address the root causes of the conflict.”
Few analysts believe there will be progress towards resolving the fundamental issues in the immediate future. There were no signals of an end to Israel’s decades-old military grip over the Palestinian territories and its blockade on the already-devastated Gaza enclave, within which 2 million people live under hardline Hamas rule.
However, Guterres said the UN was ready to work with Israel, the Palestinians, and others to return to “meaningful negotiations” on a two-state settlement based on territorial lines before the 1967 war.
In a televised address from the White House, Joe Biden, vowed to continue what he called “our quiet and relentless diplomacy” towards a long-term settlement, adding: “I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress.”
In the short term, the international effort will be focused on ensuring the truce holds and beginning the task of humanitarian relief and reconstruction in Gaza.
In the countdown to the ceasefire at 2am local time on Friday, Palestinian rocket salvoes continued and Israel carried out at least one air strike. Each side said it stood ready to retaliate for any truce violations by the other. Cairo, which brokered the truce, announced it would send two delegations to monitor the ceasefire.
In the early hours of Friday, celebrations were held in the streets of Gaza to mark the truce after a bombardment which Palestinian health officials say killed 232 people, including 65 children. Israeli authorities put the country’s death toll to date at 12, including two children.
Cars packed Gaza’s main streets, with drivers honking their horns and waving flags from the windows.