Earlier today, Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire that took effect at 9 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EST). The deal, brokered by the United States and Egypt, was made after intensive negotiations in Cairo.
Both Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr made the announcement today after earlier news of the conflict's escalation. "This is a critical moment for the region," Clinton stated. She went on to thank Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi for the pivotal role he played in the process. Mr. Amr described Egypt's efforts as a "historical commitment to the Palestinian cause."
Fighting has raged on for over a week with the death toll standing at five Israelis, including one soldier, and upwards of 140 Palestinians, with a third believed to be militants. Fears of the conflict escalating came after overnight air strikes on Gaza and a bus bombing in Tel Aviv earlier today, according to reporting by our partner The New York Times.
The agreement comes after another proposed deal fell through on Tuesday. The terms of the cease-fire dictate that both Israel and Hamas will stop all aggression towards the other side, including strikes from land, sea, and air. Israel will also be committed to opening all Gaza border crossings as well as easing restrictions on the movement of goods and people 24 hours after the cease-fire takes effect.
Daniel Kurtzer has a lot of experience with Middle East relations. He's a former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt and a current professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.