Egypt’s Central Role in Ceasefire Deal Between Israel And Hamas
The Egypt-mediated proposal was unilaterally approved on Thursday evening and brought into effect at 2 am.
Egypt had a central role to play in the truce that was brokered between Israel and Hamas on Thursday, 20 May. The truce brought about an end to the devastating 11-day military operations in Palestine’s Gaza Strip, which cost 232 Palestinian lives, including 65 children.
The Egypt-mediated proposal was unilaterally approved on Thursday evening and reportedly brought into effect at 2 am, a few hours after the cabinet decision.
As a result of the ceasefire, scores of people in Gaza and other occupied Palestinian territories came out on the streets to celebrate the truce, waving flags and flashing ‘V’ signs as the skies lit up with fireworks.
The United Nations chief urged Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers to stick to the ceasefire agreement. He said the international community must develop a reconstruction package “that supports the Palestinian people and strengthens their institutions”.
How Was the Truce Brokered?
According to a report by AFP, by brokering the peace, Egypt is attempting to restore its political clout in the region.
Since 13 May, an Egyptian delegation had been in talks with Israeli officials to negotiate a ceasefire in the escalating crisis. The delegation had also met with Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip, before crossing over to Israel.
Hamas officials had said that they had been contacted by officials from Egypt as well as Russia, Qatar, and the United Nations to call a truce, reported AFP.
Being present on the ground in the Israeli and the Palestinian territories reportedly boosted Cairo's role as a peace broker amid the crisis.
Okasha, director of the state-affiliated Egyptian Centre for Strategic Studies, had told AFP that he was optimistic of a breakthrough.
Why Did Egypt Get Involved?
It is to be noted that Egypt, in the past, played a mediating role between the two sides. In 2014, Egypt brokered a fragile ceasefire after Israel and Hamas had been engaged in a clash for weeks.
It is also one of a few countries with official ties with both.
“Egypt has to be involved. There’s no way around it,” said Michael Hanna, a senior fellow at the New York-based Century Foundation, reported AFP.
According to AP, this view had been echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had said that “indirect contact” was necessary with Hamas, adding that Egypt is a “very, very important quantity” in ceasefire efforts.
Hanna said that the outpour of atrocities against Palestinians pushed Egypt’s leadership to adopt a “harsher, more outspoken” line against Israel, despite their 1979 peace treaty.
"This is an opportunity to say not just to the US but also to other regional parties that Egypt remains important. It is a necessary diplomatic player and that a ceasefire is going to go through Cairo," he added.
However, he had also warned that Egypt has ‘weird dynamics’ with Israel.
"Egypt does not have enough pressure on Israel. The relationship is an alliance where Israel sets the contours of the military strategy it believes is needed to maintain stability," he said.
US Lauds Peace Deal
US President Joe Biden expressed his support of the deal saying, "I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress and I'm committed to working towards it,” AFP reported.
Meanwhile, the top United Nations envoy to Israel and the Palestinian territories welcomed the ceasefire, tweeting that he extended his “deepest condolences to the victims of the violence & their loved ones.”
Even as the deal was brokered, each side stood ready to retaliate in case of any truce violation by the other.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirmed that the two sides had unanimously accepted the Egyptian proposal and that the agreement was for a “mutual and unconditional” ceasefire.
(With inputs from AFP and AP.)
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