WASHINGTON, DC — A cease-fire agreement has been reached to end the weeklong conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, according Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The agreement removes the possibility — at least temporarily — of an Israeli ground operation in Gaza, and is designed to end the bombardment of southern and central Israel by Hamas-fired rockets and mortars, as well as Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets.
Clinton arrived in Israel on Tuesday evening for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Palestinian leaders and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. President Barack Obama repeatedly reached out to Morsi over the past week for help to broker an agreement to halt fighting.
According to the White House, Netanyahu called Obama on Wednesday morning, and the president encouraged him to accept the cease-fire. Obama also thanked him for agreeing to work with the Egyptian government "to achieve a sustainable cease-fire and a more durable solution to this problem."
The White House statement and the joint press conference in Cairo announcing the deal also elevated Morsi to the role of regional power broker.
"Egypt's government is assuming responsibility and leadership that has long made it a regional cornerstone of stability and peace," Clinton said in the press conference.
The White House statement added that "The President commended the Prime Minister [of Israel] for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal — which the President recommended the Prime Minister do — while reiterating that Israel maintains the right to defend itself." The curious construction of the statement will surely be parsed in the coming hours and days.
Obama also spoke with Morsi on Wednesday, the White House announced, thanking "Morsi for his efforts to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and for his personal leadership in negotiating a ceasefire proposal."
In his call with Netanyahu, Obama also pledged to secure more funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system, which has successfully stopped more than 100 rockets from falling on Israeli population centers.
The full White House statement:
President Obama spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu today and reiterated his commitment to Israel’s security.
The President made clear that no country can be expected to tolerate rocket attacks against civilians.
The President expressed his appreciation for the Prime Minister’s efforts to work with the new Egyptian government to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and a more durable solution to this problem.
The President commended the Prime Minister for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal — which the President recommended the Prime Minster do — while reiterating that Israel maintains the right to defend itself.
The President said that the United States would use the opportunity offered by a ceasefire to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.
The President said that he was committed to seeking additional funding for Iron Dome and other US-Israel missile defense programs.