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Unconditional cease-fire between Israel, Hamas takes effect in Gaza

By
Don Johnson & Danielle Haynes
Hamas militants parade through Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip during an anti-Israel rally on May 28. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

May 21 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden and other world leaders praised a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas, which took effect early Friday.

The Israeli Security Cabinet unanimously agreed to the Egyptian-brokered deal, without any preconditions, on Thursday. It took effect at 2 a.m. Friday.

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Both Israel and Hamas have claimed victory in the conflict.

The cease-fire ends nearly two weeks of violence in Gaza. The Israeli bombing campaign killed more than 230 people, and at least 12 people in Israel were killed by retaliatory Hamas rocket fire.

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Celebrations of the cease-fire spilled into the streets in Gaza overnight and during the early morning hours Friday. Drivers honked horns, residents waved flags, people fired guns into the air and others lit fireworks.

The cessation of hostilities held throughout Friday morning, but some Israelis and Palestinians fear it might not last.

The U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to visit the region in the coming days to address recovery efforts and "working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians."

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In a tweet early Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi thanked Biden, saying he shared the president's emphasis on diplomacy for managing the conflict.

Biden said he spoke with Netanyahu six times in recent days and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "more than once." He assured Netanyahu Thursday of his full support to help "replenish" Israel's Iron Dome defense system that was used to combat rocket attacks by Hamas.

The United States will also provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza in a partnership with the Palestinian Authority, Biden added, saying the efforts keep Hamas from restocking its military arsenal.

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Speaking during a Friday news conference, Biden said peace will only be established with a two-state solution.

"Until the region says unequivocally that Israel has the right to exist as an independent, Jewish state, there will be no peace," he told reporters.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said London supports "efforts to bring about peace," adding that all sides "must work to make the cease-fire durable and end the unacceptable cycle of violence and loss of civilian life," The Guardian reported.

Before the cease-fire, the Israeli Security Cabinet said "significant achievements" were made during the bombing operation.

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