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August 27, 2014

Israel and Hamas announce open-ended cease-fire

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Israel and Hamas reached an open-ended cease-fire agreement Tuesday, following nearly two months of violence between the two groups.

The cease-fire announcement came from Egypt, where representatives for Israel and Hamas have been in talks for weeks. Israel agreed to open more border crossings to humanitarian aid and construction materials.  Hamas immediately declared the deal a “victory of Gaza,” according to Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman.

Israel and Hamas have been at war since three Israeli students were kidnapped and killed while hiking in the West Bank in June. Hamas initially denied involvement but has since admitted to the kidnappings. Fighting broke out after the teenagers’ bodies were found on June 30.

Hamas, a political and military Palestinian group that has existed since 1987, governs the Palestinian territory in Gaza. It won the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 and took control of Gaza in 2007, where it pushed out Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that governs the West Bank.

Many nations consider Hamas a terrorist organization, including Israel, the U.S., Canada, Egypt, Jordan and the European Union. The group denies the existence of Israel and aims to destroy it through armed tactics.

Over 2,000 Palestinians and 69 Israelis died during the summer fighting, and half a million Palestinians were displaced. Israel’s Iron Dome technology largely enabled the military to intercept rocket attacks by Hamas. Israel has been criticized for shelling civilian-dense areas, such as a U.N. school that had served as a shelter.

Israel withdrew most of its troops from Gaza in early August after destroying Hamas-built tunnels leading into Israel, but rocket attacks between the two groups continued.

Gaza’s modern-day borders were established in 1967, when Israel captured the territory from Egypt during the Six Day War. Israel withdrew its army from Gaza in 2005 but continues to monitor the region’s borders, a source of tension between Palestinians and Israelis.

In an announcement Tuesday, the U.S. State Department said the cease-fire is still fragile, calling it an “opportunity, not a certainty.”


Warm up questions
  1. Where is Gaza?
  2. Who is Hamas?
  3. What do you know about the relationship between Palestinians and Israel?
Critical thinking questions
  1. The U.S. State Department calls the cease-fire an “opportunity, not a certainty.” What does that mean? If you were Secretary of State John Kerry, how would you describe the situation in Israel and Gaza?
  2. Hamas called the cease-fire a victory for the Palestinians. Do you agree? If you were a Hamas political leader, how would you frame the latest fighting and the cease-fire in speeches, posters or advertisements?  How would you describe it if you were the Israeli President?
  3. Much of Gaza is now destroyed and people from both Gaza and Israel have been injured and killed. How could they begin to recover?
  4. Read our Student Voices from Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. Which do you relate to the most? How have these pieces helped you understand the conflict’s effect on young people?
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