Palestinian joy as Israel agrees Gaza truce

Hamas and Israel agree long-term deal which will ease Israeli blockade of enclave after talks brokered by Egypt.

    Thousands of Palestinians are celebrating in Gaza after Israel and Palestinian groups agreed an open-ended ceasefire to end seven weeks of fighting in Gaza.

    The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Tuesday from the occupied West Bank that a formula had been accepted by all parties and that a ceasefire had gone into effect at 1600 GMT.

    He hailed the agreement as a chance to "build a new nation and end the occupation", before thanking Egypt, Qatar and the US for their roles in brokering the agreement made during indirect talks in Cairo.

    The Reuters and AP news agencies quoted Israeli officials as saying that the Israeli government had accepted the deal. Israeli media reported the same.

    Hamas's exiled deputy leader, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said the agreement was a "victory for the resistance".

    Crowds took to the bombed-out streets of Gaza to celebrate the end of hostilities. Many used the v-sign to signify Palestinian victory over Israel.

    Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons, reporting from Gaza, said that the deal agreed an immediate easing of Israel's blockade of crossings into Gaza, and a gradual lifting of restrictions on fishing off the coast of the strip.

    "The embargo will be lifted and the five border posts will see considerable changes, with the Rafah border crossing opening," he said in reference to the crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

    Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from West Jerusalem, said discussions on the creation of a seaport and airport would take place in a month "when indirect talks betwen Israel and Palestinians are scheduled to resume".

    She noted that local leaders had urged civilians not to return to their homes yet. Local officials also announced that schools would not begin on the first day of September.

    Ofir Gendelman, the Israeli prime minister's spokesman on the Arab world, said operations in Gaza were a victory for Israel.

    "Hamas gave in and accepted the same Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire it rejected until now. The reason for the change ... air strikes," he said.

    Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told Al Jazeera that the bloodshed could have been "avoided" if Hamas had accepted the July 15 ceasefire agreement.

    Several senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders made rare public appearances after the truce took hold.

    Among them was Mahmud al-Zahar and senior Islamic Jihad official Mohammed al-Hindi.  

    The deal

    * A multilateral ceasefire.

    * Israel to open more of its Gaza crossings, Egypt to open Rafah.

    * The Palestinian Authority to take over Gaza's borders.

    * The PA to lead rebuilding efforts.

    * Israel to reduce security buffer inside Gaza, from 300m to 100m.

    * Israel to extend fishing limit off Gaza's coast from three to six miles, with the possibility of extending it further.

    "We're going to build our port and our airport, and if they attack our
    port, we will attack theirs and if they attack our airport, we will attack
    theirs - again," Zahar said.

    "But anyone who attacks the airport will have their airport attacked again."

    Raids end

    Israeli air raids continued in the run up to the ceasefire on Tuesday, as jets attacked two Gaza City high-rise buildings, collapsing one and severely damaging the other.

    One attack levelled the 15-storey Basha tower and severely damaged a 13-storey building known as the Italian complex, which was home to 70 families and dozens of shops and offices. 

    Palestinian health officials said 20 people were wounded in the Italian complex attack. 

    In Israel, one civilian was killed and two others were seriously wounded by a mortar round fired from Gaza which hit a kibbutz in the Eshkol regional council area.

    A total of 2,142 people, most of them civilians including more than 490 children, have been killed in Gaza since war broke out on July 8. A total of 69 people have been killed on the Israeli side, nearly all of them soldiers.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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