WASHINGTON -- Israel and Hamas have agreed to a cease-fire in the week-old conflagration in Gaza that has left more than a hundred dead and many more wounded.
The halt in hostilities was announced during a Wednesday press conference in Cairo, Egypt, by the Egyptian foreign minister Mohammed Kamel Amr. He was joined by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has spent the past 18 hours engaged in a whirlwind tour of diplomacy in a hasty attempt to reach a peace deal.
The cease-fire is set to take effect at 9 p.m. Cairo time, or 2 p.m. EST. More than 140 Palestinians, and five Israelis, have been killed in the conflict, which was almost entirely conducted by airstrike, rocket and drone.
Egyptian mediators told Reuters that Hamas believes it has won "guarantees" from the Israeli government to stop assassinating its leaders, and to ease the way for Palestinians to move across the borders of the Gaza Strip. Israelis say that if the rocket fire from Gaza does not stop, they hold the right to redouble their military strikes in the future.
The brokered deal appears to be a major diplomatic coup for the U.S. and for Egypt, whose role in the Middle East has been in question ever since a revolution led to the rise of an Islamist government more sympathetic to Hamas.
For the U.S., the resolution, at least temporarily, of the conflict marks a signature achievement in the early moments of President Barack Obama's second term.
After appearing for several days to remain aloof from the crisis, pausing amid a tour of Asian nations only to offer words of support for Israel and its "right to defend itself," Obama ended up devoting substantial time to numerous phone calls with both Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Obama later dispatched Clinton to the region, where she met with officials in Israel late Tuesday night before traveling to the West Bank and Cairo on Wednesday. Clinton had been traveling with Obama on the Asia tour, thought to be one of her last major foreign trips as secretary of state.
American officials consistently said they were seeking a "de-escalation" of the crisis, but in a briefing on Obama's final call with Netanyahu, they noted that Obama had "recommended" that Netanyahu accept the Egyptian proposal. The briefing offered the first open indication that the president had put pressure on his Israeli counterpart to accept a cease-fire.