Key Points

  • Israel and Palestinian factions including Hamas have agreed an open-ended ceasefire from 7pm Tuesday evening local time (5pm UK time).
  • The ceasefire includes two stages: an initial period in which firing will stop and restrictions on crossings will be eased for humanitarian aid, with more long term issues to be addressed within a month.
  • Hamas previously rejected Egyptian ceasefire proposals which did not immediately meet all their demands.
  • Fire from Palestinian armed groups continued up to the scheduled beginning of the ceasefire, with an Israeli civilian killed by a mortar on Tuesday afternoon.

What is in the ceasefire agreement?

  • Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups have agreed to immediately halt rocket fire and attacks into Israel, whilst Israel will refrain from carrying out operational activity.
  • Israel will immediately allow for increased transfer of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip from the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings, though entry of construction materials will be limited to prevent them being used by Hamas for military purposes.
  • Israel will increase the fishing zone off the Gaza coastline.
  • Within one month, more substantial issues will be discussed, including Hamas demands for construction of an airport and sea port in the Gaza Strip and the further opening up of the Gaza Strip’s borders, including the Rafah crossing with Egypt. However, Israeli officials have said that any more substantial lifting of restrictions must be linked to the demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip, and Egypt wants to see the deployment of PA security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas on the Rafah border crossing. Hamas’s demand for salaries to be paid to its employees in the Gaza Strip is apparently not addressed in the first stage of the agreement.
  • According to some reports a UN Security Resolution will also be passed in the coming days relating to the future of the Gaza Strip.
  • The issue of the release of the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the fighting and of Hamas fighters and activists arrested by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza, is also likely to come under discussion during the coming month.
  • The EU has offered to play a role in ensuring the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip is conducted without allowing Hamas to rearm, and EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen said this week that the EU held Hamas responsible for the collapse of ceasefire talks last week.

Background to the conflict

  • The escalation of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israeli towns and cities, in particular the firing of around 100 rockets on Monday 7 July, led the Israeli Security Cabinet to launch Operation Protective Edge, in an effort to restore quiet.
  • A ceasefire established after Operation Pillar of Defence in November 2012 began to erode with increasing Palestinian rocket fire in the first few months of 2014. The rocket fire increased further after Israel arrested hundreds of Hamas operatives in the West Bank whilst trying to find three Israeli teenagers abducted by Hamas operatives in June.
  • Though the current escalation was set off by events in the West Bank, Hamas was driven to escalate and continue the fighting to extricate itself from an economic and political crisis in the Gaza Strip, facing increasing regional isolation.
  • Israel did not seek an escalation in the Gaza Strip and consistently sent messages to Hamas that ‘quiet would be answered with quiet’.
  • Israel launched a two week ground operation in the Gaza Strip on 17 July, following the rejection by Hamas of an Egyptian ceasefire proposal backed by the Arab League on 15 July. The main target of the ground operation was destroying concrete tunnels built by Hamas to carry terrorists under the border to carry out attacks in Israel.
  • The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claims more than 2,000 Palestinian fatalities, making no distinctions between militants and civilians. Israel believes that between 750 and 1,000 of the Palestinian fatalities are militants.
  • There were a total of 64 Israeli military fatalities and five civilian fatalities, including a four-year-old boy killed by a mortar on Friday 22 August, and an individual killed on Tuesday 26 August.
  • Around 4500 rockets and mortars have been fired towards Israeli towns and cities since the start of Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted more than 700 rockets heading for populated areas.