A senior Hamas official predicted a ceasefire within days in the Israel-Gaza conflict, after U.S. President Joe Biden urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek a “de-escalation” in the fighting.
Rocket fire into Israel died down overnight, a lull that stretched into Thursday morning. Israel was launching new air strikes in Gaza after daybreak, but, Israeli media said, at a slower pace than in past days.
An Egyptian security source said the sides had agreed in principle to a ceasefire after help from mediators but details were still being negotiated in secret.
“I think that the ongoing efforts regarding the ceasefire will succeed,” the Hamas political official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV. “I expect a ceasefire to be reached within a day or two, and the ceasefire will be on the basis of mutual agreement.”
Asked on Israel’s Kan public radio if a ceasefire would begin on Friday, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said: “No. We are definitely seeing very significant international pressure … we will finish the operation when we decide we have attained our goals.”
Netanyahu, who spoke to Biden by telephone on Wednesday, has said Israel wants to achieve “forceful deterrence” to dissuade Gaza’s ruling Hamas Islamists from future confrontation.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera television reported that U.N. Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland was meeting Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar.
Israel carried out over a dozen air strikes on Gaza after midnight, targeting what it said was a weapons storage unit in the Gaza City home of a Hamas official, and military infrastructure in the homes of other commanders from the group. Medics said four people were wounded in one attack on the town of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
Rocket sirens blared just after midnight in the southern Israeli town of Beersheba and in areas bordering Gaza, with no reports of casualties or damage. The workday began on Thursday with no alerts.
Since the fighting began on May 10, Palestinian health officials say 228 people have been killed in aerial bombardments that have worsened Gaza’s already dire humanitarian situation.
Israeli authorities put the death toll to date at 12 in Israel, where repeated rocket attacks have caused panic and sent people rushing into shelters.