Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire on Thursday (May 20), bringing an end to 11 days of deadly violence and destruction in the Gaza Strip. At around 2 p.m. local time, Associated Press reports, many of the 58,000 Palestinian residents that had fled their homes returned and celebrated the truce.
Al Jazeera English tweeted videos of Palestinians celebrating the restored calm in the early morning hours of Friday (May 21). The footage showed groups of people walking through the streets, chanting “Allahu Akbar” and whistling from their balconies.
“Rallies in the streets, celebrating all over the Gaza Strip,” Al Jazeera English reporter Safwat Al-Kahlout said in one video. “We went to the street ourselves to see. We could see people who had been staying indoors for 11 nights now in the streets celebrating. The celebrations that they were supposed to celebrate during the Eid, the feast that follows Ramadan that they couldn’t do; we could hear them today.”
“This is the day of victory, the day of freedom, and this is the most beautiful day that we’ve experienced,” one person celebrating said. “This is the day of victory and liberation… Even if they destroy all of Gaza, they cannot destroy the spirit of resistance in us.”
However, according to Al Jazeera English and AFP News Agency, celebrations were cut short on Friday after fresh clashes broke out between Israeli police and Palestinians at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. Video posted on Twitter showed Israeli forces at the compound firing tear gas at Palestinians celebrating the cease-fire.
The fighting ended on Thursday inconclusively, Associated Press reports. After rebuffing calls for de-escalation from President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Security Cabinet ended up accepting Egypt’s cease-fire proposal. Israel claimed to have caused heavy damage to Hamas, while the militant group also claimed victory.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, at least 230 Palestinians were killed in the battle, including 65 children and 39 women and another 1,710 people were wounded. In Israel, 12 people were killed, including a 5-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl.
AP reports that Hamas and other militant groups ultimately fired over 4,000 rockets into Israel, including heavily populated cities such as Tel Aviv, the country’s capital. In response, Israel launched hundreds of airstrikes and targeted what it said was Hamas’ military infrastructure.
In Gaza, Israeli attacks damaged at least 18 hospitals and destroyed one health center. According to the World Health Organization, nearly half of the area’s essential drugs have run out. Bombings also damaged at least 50 schools in the territory and destroyed at least six, disrupting education for almost 42,000 children. Other medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are also reported to be in low supply.
President Biden said Thursday of the cease-fire: “I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress and I’m committed to working for it.”
He also said that the U.S. would help to replenish Israel’s supply of interceptor missiles for the country’s Iron Dome rocket-defense system and would work with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas, to provide humanitarian relief in Gaza.
See videos from after the cease-fire below.