May 20, 2021 - World

Netanyahu convenes Israeli Cabinet to discuss potential Gaza ceasefire

Netanyahu at a Cabinet meeting in 2019. Photo: Gali Tibbon/Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene Israel's Security Cabinet at 7pm local time (12pm ET) on Thursday to discuss the military operation in Gaza and the possibility of a ceasefire.

Why it matters: Any ceasefire would require the approval of the Security Cabinet, and senior Israeli officials expect an agreement by this weekend.

  • Yes, but: Netanyahu has resisted international pressure toward a ceasefire so far. In an apparent signal that he wouldn't be rushed, Netanyahu canceled a planned Cabinet meeting on Wednesday after President Biden urged him to move toward a ceasefire.

The state of play: The ceasefire talks are moving on two tracks: Egyptian intelligence officials are talking to Netanyahu's office and to Hamas leadership in Gaza; while UN envoy Tor Wennesland is talking to Hamas political leadership abroad.

  • Wennesland arrived in Qatar on Wednesday for talks with Hamas officials.

Driving the news: Both sides have intensified their attacks in anticipation of a ceasefire. Gaza health officials said on Thursday that 230 Palestinians had been killed since the beginning of the crisis, with 1,710 wounded.

What they're saying: A diplomatic source told me the UN was "actively engaged with all the relevant parties in order to de-escalate the situation on the ground."

  • A senior Israeli official said he thinks a breakthrough toward a ceasefire could take place in the next 24 hours. Netanyahu's office declined to comment.
  • Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said Wednesday that he expects the talks to produce a ceasefire within a day or two.

What to watch: Hamas officials have called on Israel to end police "incursions" into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, or Temple Mount, and stop the evictions of Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem as part of a ceasefire.

  • Israel refuses to discuss any agreement that would link the Gaza conflict to Jerusalem, sources familiar with the talks tell me.
Go deeper