Ceasefire meaning: what is the agreement between Israel and Palestine - and why Gaza conflict has been halted

UK and US governments were among the voices calling for a ceasefire which was brokered by Egypt

After 11 days of conflict, Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire.

More than 240 people have died and thousands more injured in the recent flair up which has brought widespread devastation on the Gaza Strip.

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Tensions in the region have been ongoing for decades and were heightened further when police raided a Muslim holy site in East Jerusalem in April.

A Palestinian family returns to their house in Gaza City after a ceasefire was agreed between Israel and Hamas. (Pic: Getty)

It led to rockets being fired from Gaza at Israel, who responded with airstrikes on the region.

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‘Bilateral, unconditional’ ceasefire agreed in Israel-Palestine conflict

What is a ceasefire?

A ceasefire effectively pauses the fighting between two parties at odds with one another.

The agreement brings a temporary stop to aggressive actions but is limited and is not a settlement to end the fighting altogether.

US president Joe Biden has gone on record to say the latest ceasefire between Israel and Palestine has brought “a genuine opportunity” for progress.

What is the Israel-Palestine ceasefire agreement?

On Thursday night (20 May), the Israeli security cabinet said it had “unanimously accepted” the recommendation for a ceasefire.

“The political echelon emphasizes that the reality on the ground will determine the continuation of the campaign,” a statement from the cabinet read.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had “exacted a heavy price from Hamas” and that the “full range of achievements will be revealed over time”.

Hamas officials said the ceasefire, which was announced by Israel, was a “victory” for the Palestinian people, in a report by the Associated Press.

Izzat al-Reshiq, a member of Hamas's political bureau, said: “It's true that the battle ends today but Netanyahu and the whole world should know that our finger is on the trigger and we will continue to ramp up the capabilities of this resistance.”

How did the ceasefire come about?

The ceasefire began at 2am local time on Friday 21 May (11pm BST on 20 May) and was agreed after international governments called for the fighting to stop.

The UK and the US were among the voices calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine which was brokered by officials from Egypt.

US president Joe Biden said: “I send my sincere condolences to all the families, Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost loved ones and my hope for a full recovery for the wounded.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the news of a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza in a Twitter post published on the morning of Friday 21 May.

“Leaders in the region must now work to find a durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that prevents terrorism, ends the cycle of violence and delivers a sustainable and just peace,” he wrote.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the ceasefire was “an important step to ending the cycle of violence and loss of civilian life” and added “Hamas must end all attacks on Israel”.

Britain will be contributing to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) funds which are being collected to provide food, water and emergency shelter for Palestinians affected by the violence, Minister for the Middle East James Cleverly announced on Thursday.