There was a flurry of reports of a possible ceasefire in the Gaza fighting as early as Thursday night, even as rockets again rained down on southern Israel.
“The Israeli government informed the Egyptian side that it would accept a cease fire after the security cabinet meeting this evening,” the BBC said, citing an informed source. It added, however, that “we have do not have official confirmation from the Israeli side.
According to Al Jazeera, Israel has already agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
However, any deal will have to be approved by the security cabinet, set to convene at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
Somewhat earlier in the day, Defense Minister Benny Gantz indicated that the IDF was not yet ceasefire-oriented: “We are prepared and willing to expand the operation as needed,” says Gantz.
“We are taking Hamas on a journey back in time — a journey from which we will not allow it to return,” he added.
His remarks came as IDF sources said that they were running out of quality targets in Gaza.
The drumbeat for a ceasefire has been building all week, with calls from President Joe Biden to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and demands for an end to the fighting from Europe, Russia and China at the U.N.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the General Assembly that he and the U.N. Mideast envoy are engaged in “extensive diplomatic efforts” in the region, including with Egypt, Jordan and Qatar, to stop the fighting immediately, according to Reuters.
He called on all members of the international community “to do everything in their power to enable the parties to conflict to step back from the brink.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by telephone on Thursday to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to urge peacemaking. “Merkel and President Abbas agreed that the initiatives for a speedy ceasefire should be further supported,” a spokesman for Merkel said in a statement.
Merkel also underlined Israel’s right to self-defense in the face of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, the statement said.
Meanwhile, at the General Assembly, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan walked out of a meeting to protest Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki’s accusation that Israel has been committing war crimes by targeting civilians.
Updated Thursday, May 20, 2021 at 12:36 pm .