Celebrations broke out on the streets of Gaza as Hamas and Israel declare a ceasefire after 11 days of fighting that left hundreds of dead, including dozens of children.
Gazans quickly took to the streets and sang horns and sang when a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas began at 2 a.m. local time on Friday.
There were chants of “God is greatest and thank God” as flags waved and guns fired in the air.
More than 200 Palestinians have died, including 65 children, and a dozen were killed in Israel during the violence that broke out in recent weeks.
After the worst flare-up of violence in years, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab hailed the end of hostilities and called on Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel.
He said: “Britain welcomes the announcement of a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza, an important step in ending the cycle of violence and loss of civilian life.
“Hamas must end all attacks on Israel. It is also important now that Israel enables rapid humanitarian access in and out of Gaza.”
Many Gazans took to the streets when the ceasefire went into effect shouting in Arabic, “God is greatest and thank God.”
Cars packed the main streets of Gaza, drivers boomed and waved flags from the windows.
Mosque speakers hailed what Hamas called “the victory of the resistance over the occupation during the battle for the sword of Jerusalem”.
Men fired rifles into the air and others set off noise bombs or fireworks. Some hugged, one called it a “break from the coronavirus”.
“This is a great victory over the occupation. Our resistance men forced them to a ceasefire,” said 30-year-old Ahmed Amer as he celebrated with friends.
“Today Eid al-Fitr begins. Yes, we are sorry and sad for our people who have lost their homes and relatives, but we will celebrate anyway,” he said.
Another man, clutching an AK-47 assault rifle, said, “Our fingers are on the trigger and we’re ready to fight again, but now we’re going to celebrate with our people,” he said, refusing to give a name .
In the Israeli-occupied city of Ramallah, hundreds of people took to the streets and sang, “We redeem you with souls and blood, Gaza.”
In the countdown to the ceasefire, Palestinian rocket volleys continued and Israel launched at least one air strike.
Each side said it was ready to take revenge on the other’s ceasefire violations, while Cairo sent two delegations to oversee the ceasefire.
Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, planned public ceremonies for the victory over a militarily and economically stronger enemy.
In Israel the relief was bittersweet.
“It’s good that the conflict is ending, but unfortunately I don’t have the feeling that we have much time before the next escalation,” said Eiv Izyaev, a 30-year-old software engineer, in Tel Aviv.
Since the fighting began on May 10, Gaza health officials have said 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, have been killed in air strikes and more than 1,900 injured.
Israel said it killed at least 160 combatants in Gaza.
Authorities put the death toll in Israel at 12, with hundreds of people being treated for injuries in rocket attacks that caused panic and stormed people into shelters.
Amid growing international concern, Biden had urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to de-escalate, while Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations sought mediation.
In a televised address on Thursday, Biden expressed condolences to the bereaved Israelis and Palestinians and said Washington would work with the United Nations “and other international stakeholders to provide rapid humanitarian assistance” to Gaza and its reconstruction.
He said the aid will be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority, headed by Hamas’ rival, President Mahmoud Abbas, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, “in a way that does not allow Hamas to simply restore its military arsenal to fill up “.
Britain will also contribute to the United Nations Relief Society’s funds raised to provide food, water and shelter to the Palestinians affected by the violence, Middle East Minister James Cleverly announced on Thursday.