Gazans celebrate long-term ceasefire
THE skies over the Gaza Strip were calm yesterday, as a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Palestine took hold after 50 days of the deadliest violence in a decade.
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.
In Gaza, where celebrations erupted once the truce took hold at 4pm GMT (midnight Singapore time) on Tuesday, the festivities continued late into the night as its 1.8 million residents revelled at the end of seven weeks of bloody violence.
The conflict - which began on July 8, when Israel began Operation Protective Edge in a bid to stamp out cross-border rocket fire - has claimed the lives of 2,143 Palestinians and 70 on the Israeli side.
United Nations figures show nearly 70 per cent of the Palestinian victims were civilians, while 64 of the Israelis killed were soldiers.
The Palestinians said it was a "permanent" truce, while a senior Israeli official described it as "unconditional and unlimited in time".
Washington gave its full backing to the Egyptian-mediated deal, with United States Secretary of State John Kerry calling on both sides "to fully and completely comply" with its terms.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon welcomed the ceasefire, but said in a statement: "The blockade of Gaza must end; Israel's legitimate security concerns must be addressed."
He warned: "Any peace effort that does not tackle the root causes of the crisis will do little more than set the stage for the next cycle of violence."
The deal promised only limited change to conditions in Gaza and left the broader issues underpinning the conflict unresolved.
Hamas, the militant Islamist faction that dominates Gaza, declared victory, even though it had abandoned most of its demands, ultimately accepting an Egyptian-brokered deal that differs little from one proffered on the battle's seventh day.
In effect, the deal put both sides back where they were at the end of eight days of fighting in 2012, with terms that called for easing but not lifting Israeli restrictions on travel, trade and fishing in Gaza.
Hamas' call for a seaport and airport in Gaza, and Israel's call for the demilitarisation of the coastal territory - along with an exchange of Israeli soldiers' remains for Palestinians in Israeli prisons - were put off for discussion within a month if the truce holds.