By George Whitten, BosNewsLife Senior Middle East Correspondent reporting from Israel and BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (BosNewsLife)– A tense ceasefire began late Wednesday between the ruling militant Hamas group in the Gaza Strip and Israel following weeklong fighting, but Christians in Israel urged prayers amid fears of an all-out war.
The ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, was announced in Cairo by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Cairo.
They said the truce would take effect at 9 p.m. local time. A published copy of the agreement said Israel and all Palestinian militant groups agreed to halt “all hostilities.”
It was aimed at ending Israeli airstrikes and assassinations of wanted militants, while for Israel, it was supposed to halt rocket fire and attempts at cross-border incursions from Gaza.
However Jewish people and Christians working in Israel expressed concerns about the immediate future.
They referred to a U.S. Consulate General warning declaring “the Jerusalem light rail network to be off-limits to U.S. government employees until further notice.”
Official personnel and their family members continue to be prohibited from using public buses and bus terminals or stations, it said, just hours after at least 2` people were injured when a bomb blast rocked a passenger bus in Tel Aviv, injuring 21 people.
“Please keep this in your prayers. The last time I received a unique message from the State Department was the day the war officially started,” a Christian aid worker said.
Clinton also said there is “there’s “no substitute for a just and lasting peace.”
(Watch Clinton’s announcement of the ceasefire here; story continues after this)
Even after the deal was announced air raid sirens continued to wail throughout southern Israel where most of the 1,000 rockets fired from Gaza pounded the Jewish state in recent days, according to witnesses. Some dozen rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza late Wednesday, November 21, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.
Amid the tensions Paul Crouch, founder and President of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), is urged Christians around the world to pray for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“Scripture exhorts us to pray for the peace of this land that is so inextricably tied to God’s eternal purpose,” said Crouch whose network has produced programs and live broadcasts from Jerusalem and other Israeli communities.
With the help of its Russian affiliate TBN recently established a studio and 24-hour network catering to the millions of Russian Jews who have settled in Israel.
“As we have witnessed over the past several months, at no time has there been a greater need for peace — not just in Israel, but across the entire Middle East,” he added.
He said that “God has promised that He will bless those who bless His people,” noting that it was through Israel that God offered “salvation to the entire earth
by Jesus Christ”.
Israel launched well over 1,500 airstrikes and other attacks on targets in Gaza in what it said was an act of self-defense.
Palestinian officials and doctors said over 140 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians and many of them children, were killed in what is one of the world’s most populated territories. Five Israelis also died in the fighting.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he agreed to the cease-fire after consulting with President Barack Obama.