A ceasefire has come into effect in and around the Gaza Strip, after Israel and Hamas agreed to cease hostilities, following diplomatic efforts in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Cairo.

Many Palestinians in Gaza City took to the streets to celebrate the truce on Wednesday night, blasting car horns and setting off fireworks from rooftops amid celebratory gunfire.

The Egyptian foreign minister announced the ceasefire agreement hours before it took hold at 1900GMT on Wednesday.

So who have been some of the major players involved in the latest Israel-Gaza conflict?

Starting with Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his government say the bombing campaign in Gaza was to stop Hamas from launching rockets at Israel.

But some observers say Netanyahu was also testing the new power balance in the Middle East, warning neighbouring countries like Egypt that there are limits to their influence.

Hamas, led by Khaled Meshaal, with strong links to the Muslim Brotherhood, has benefited from the new leadership in Egypt. It tried to get favourable terms out of a truce with Israel, including lifting the blockade of Gaza.

Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi has taken an assertive role on Palestine, leading negotiations for a truce. Although he tried to reflect the will of the Arab streets, he is constrained by Egypt's reliance on US aid, and by his country's long-standing peace treaty with Israel.

And the US threw its weight behind Israel in this latest conflict, blaming Hamas for the outbreak of violence. But it engaged in efforts to bring the escalating violence to an end and to put a ceasefire in place.  

Inside Story takes a close look at all the important players in the Israel-Gaza conflict and asks what they are hoping to achieve.

To discuss this, presenter James Bays, is joined by guests: Phil Rees, a British filmmaker and the author of the book Dining With Terrorists: Meetings with the World's Most Wanted Militants; Hassan Nafaa, a professor of Political Science at Cairo University and an author of several books on Egyptian foreign policy; and Eric Trager, the next Generation Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Source: Al Jazeera