Israel and the Hamas militant group reached a cease-fire agreement Wednesday to end the fiercest round of fighting in nearly four years, promising to halt attacks on each other and ease an Israeli blockade constricting the Gaza Strip.
The deal was brokered by the new Islamist government of Egypt, solidifying its role as a leader in the quickly shifting Middle East. Under the agreement, Egypt will play a key role in maintaining the peace.
Egypt's foreign minister, Mohammed Kamel Amr, announced the deal, capping days of intense efforts that drew the world's top diplomats into the fray. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood next to Amr as he announced the breakthrough at a news conference in Cairo.
The agreement will "improve conditions for the people of Gaza and provide security for the people of Israel," Clinton said. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he agreed to the cease-fire after consulting with President Barack Obama.
In Washington, Obama hailed the agreement. "The president expressed his appreciation for the Prime Minister's efforts to work with the new Egyptian government to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and a more durable solution to this problem," a White House statement said.
The White House said the United States will use the opportunity offered by the cease-fire to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.
Obama also said he would seek more money for the Iron Dome defense system that has protected Israel from rocket attacks.