World / Middle East

Gaza truce holds; war called 'a draw'

By Agence France-Presse in Gaza (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-28 07:02

The skies over Gaza remained calm on Wednesday as a long-term cease-fire 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.

"Since the truce came into force, there has been no IDF (Israel Defense Forces) activity in Gaza, and no rocket fire on Israel," a military spokeswoman said, 12 hours after the guns on both sides fell silent.

The agreement, which went into force at 7 pm local time on Tuesday, was hailed by Washington as well as by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who said he hoped it would set the stage for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Both Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement hailed the cease-fire as a victory.

But commentators took a more realistic perspective. "A draw" was the headline in Maariv newspaper.

Experts said the two sides agreed to halt their fire out of exhaustion after seven weeks of fighting, which has claimed the lives of 2,143 Palestinians and 70 Israelis.

"After 50 days of fighting, the two sides were exhausted, so that's why they reached a cease-fire," Middle East expert Eyal Zisser told AFP.

Politically, Hamas had "not achieved anything", but in order to really weaken the movement, Israel would have to resume peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, Zisser said.

The Palestinians said it was a "permanent" truce, while a senior Israeli official described it as "unconditional and unlimited in time".

Under the deal, Israel will ease restrictions on the entry of goods, humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza and will expand the area open to Palestinian fishermen to 6 nautical miles.

But talks on crunch issues such as Hamas' demands for a port, 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.

In Gaza, where celebrations erupted once the truce took hold, the festivities continued late into the night as its 1.8 million residents reveled in the end of seven weeks of bloody violence.

"We slept last night without any raids, and we couldn't hear warplanes," said a resident, Mutaz Shalah, as he headed to work for the first time since the war began on July 8.

"We were able to sleep," said another resident, Alaa al-Jaro. "We had the best sleep ever after the Israeli aggression ended."

Although there was little sign of celebration in Israel, as people absorbed the deaths of two civilians killed by a mortar shell just before the truce, officials were quick to portray the agreement as a resounding success.

(China Daily 08/28/2014 page12)

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