JERUSALEM, November 21, 2012 (JTA) — A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is set to begin at 9 p.m. local time.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr announced the agreement Wednesday evening in Cairo. It will go into effect at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Prior to the announcement, President Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who accepted Obama’s recommendation to give the Egyptian cease-fire proposal a chance to work.
Obama reiterated his commitment to Israel’s security and made clear that no country can be expected to tolerate rocket attacks against civilians, according to the White House. He also commended Netanyahu for agreeing to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal while reiterating that Israel maintains the right to defend itself. Obama told Netanyahu that he was committed to seeking additional funding for Iron Dome and other U.S.-Israel missile defense programs.
Clinton called the cease-fire agreement a “critical moment for the region,” and praised Egypt for its leadership on the agreement. She said the next steps include moving toward a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Minutes after the announcement, five rockets were fired from Gaza at Beersheva; one struck a home there, according to Israel’s Channel 1.
Five Israelis and more than 140 Palestinians have been reported killed since Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense on Nov. 14 with the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari. The assassination followed several days of intense rocket bombardment on southern Israel, and Hamas stepped up its rocket fire against Israel after the operation began. Hamas missiles have reached as far as the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas nearly 50 miles away. On Wednesday, terrorists detonated a bomb aboard a bus in central Tel Aviv, wounding 21 people.
Nearly 1,500 rockets have been fired at Gaza toward Israel since the beginning of the operation; some of those fell in Gazan territory. Some 421 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
The Story So Sar:
Hamas Rockets Target Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Communities Across Southern Israel
As most of us sleep soundly in our beds in North America, millions of Israelis are now regularly passing the hours of darkness in fear. In the first 24 hours of Operation: Pillar of Defense, over 200 rockets were fired at Southern Israel from Gaza. By noon on Friday, November 16, that number reached over 550.
|In the past year, that number climbs to nearly a thousand. And over the course of the last 12 years, it soars to over 12,000 rockets and missiles. To put it plainly, Israelis have been living in a state of terror for far too long.|
And while Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, developed with the assistance of the United States, can intercept many, it won’t prevent all from hitting their intended targets. As the days progress, hundreds of thousands will be listening for the blare of an alarm, signaling the need to take cover in shelters as far north as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And sometimes, those warnings will only offer 15 seconds to run to safety. Fifteen seconds. In other words, the time it roughly will take you to finish reading this paragraph.
What a wholly unfair request to ask innocent civilians to face on a daily basis. No government should, or would, tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people – over one million – live under a constant threat of fire, including Israel. Just like any other country, Israel has the inalienable right – indeed the obligation – to defend its citizens from attack. Yet, inexplicably, some still question it.
This leads us to pose the following questions ourselves:
If Hamas has the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, why do they engage in terrorism that is only counterproductive to peace?
Why smuggle thousands of rockets and missiles into Gaza, many of them made in Iran, and deliberately place them in civilian homes, schools and hospitals, putting their own residents at risk?
And why, despite total Israeli withdrawal from Gaza seven years ago, does Hamas leadership remain focused on targeting innocent Israelis, instead of building towards a peaceful future for their own citizens?
The answer is simple. Hamas targets Israel because it refuses to accept Israel’s existence as the democratic nation state of the Jewish people.
It is for this reason that we must all stand with Israel, now more than ever, to support the Israeli Defense Forces’ Operation: Pillar of Defense, which is targeting the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza while seeking to minimize casualties among non-combatants. We profoundly regret the loss of life and injuries suffered on both sides.
Ultimately, rocket fire from Gaza not only poses a threat to the safety of both peoples, it also makes it infinitely more difficult to move toward a just and lasting peace, a negotiated solution, which will enable both Israelis and Palestinians to live safely side-by-side.
We hope and pray that Israel’s effort to stop the terror on its citizens will be successful and the world will follow the lead of the United States and recognize Israel’s right of self defense. When terror is defeated, peace becomes possible.
The Jewish Federation of Louisville Stands with Israel
Representatives of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and ORT are already on the ground in Israel assessing the real needs to Israelis under fire and relaying that information to the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). Services they are organizing include trauma counseling, financial assistance, portable bomb shelters, and potentially other initiatives including bringing children in the strike zones out of harm’s way.
Please help us increase our support for Israel and do our share as part of the world Jewish community. Donate to the 2013 Federation Campaign today because together, we do extraordinary things in Israel, in Louisville and around the world.