Gaza truce holds as Israel, Hamas claim ‘victory’

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories : The skies over Gaza remained calm Wednesday as a long-term ceasefire took hold, ending the deadliest violence in a decade, with Israel and Hamas both claiming ‘victory’ in the 50-day war.

Millions in and around the war-torn enclave enjoyed a welcome night of peace during which there were no strikes on Gaza, nor Palestinian rockets fired at Israel, the Israeli army said.

“We were able to sleep!” said a Gazan man, Alaa al-Jaro. “We had the best sleep ever after the Israeli aggression ended.”

“A ceasefire has been signed, and this time it should last, not like before,” said 16-year-old Raed Alaa Habeb from Gaza City’s battered Shejaiya neighbourhood.

“We trust in this ceasefire.”

The agreement, which went into force at 1600 GMT Tuesday, saw the warring sides agree to a “permanent” ceasefire which Israel said would not be limited by time, in a move hailed by Washington, the United Nations and top world diplomats.

Both Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement, the de facto authority in Gaza, hailed the ceasefire as a victory.

And experts said the two sides had agreed to halt their fire out of exhaustion after seven weeks of fighting which has claimed the lives of 2,143 Palestinians and 70 on the Israeli side.

“After 50 days of fighting, the two sides were exhausted so that’s why they reached a ceasefire,” Middle East expert Eyal Zisser told AFP.

Politically, Hamas had “not achieved anything” but to really weaken it, Israel would have to resume peace talks with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, he said.

Under the deal, Israel will ease restrictions on the entry of goods, humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza, and it expanded the offshore area open to Palestinian fishermen to six nautical miles.

But talks on crunch issues such as Hamas’s demands for a port and an airport and the release of prisoners, as well as Israel’s calls to disarm militant groups, will be delayed until the negotiators return to Cairo within the coming month.

Source: AFP