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Gaza Ceasefire
Aug 28, 2014

The war in Gaza ended after Israel and the Palestinians agreed to halt fighting indefinitely, putting an end to seven weeks of catastrophic loss of life and destruction, but on terms which are likely to leave many on both sides of the conflict wondering what was achieved.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad–the main militant groups in Gaza–the Palestinian Authority and Israel agreed on an open-ended ceasefire, bringing relief to civilians on both sides of the border. There has been no reports of violence since the ceasefire began.

As the ceasefire came into effect Gaza echoed with celebratory gunfire and mosques announced victory through their loudspeakers. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in response to text messages sent by Hamas urging victory celebrations.

But the terms of the deal–brokered by the Egyptian government, and reached on the 50th day of the conflict–appeared to be almost identical to those agreed at the end of the previous war 21 months ago. Israel will open crossings on its border to allow humanitarian aid and construction materials to enter Gaza, and will extend the permitted fishing zone to six miles off the coast of Gaza. The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt is also to be opened.

More difficult issues will be deferred for further indirect talks between the two parties in a month. They include, Hamas’s demand for an airport and seaport in Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners, and Israel's insistence on the disarmament of militant groups and the return of the remains of two of its soldiers killed in the fighting.

Under a second stage of the truce that would begin a month later, Israel and the Palestinians would discuss the construction of a Gaza seaport and Israel's release of Hamas prisoners in the occupied West Bank. Israel gave a low-key response to the truce, saying it would facilitate the flow of civilian goods and humanitarian and reconstruction aid into the impoverished territory if the open-ended ceasefire was honoured.

Palestinian health officials say 2139 people, most of them civilians, including more than 490 children, have been killed in the enclave since July 8, when Israel launched an offensive with the declared aim of ending rocket salvoes. 64 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel have been killed.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said 540,000 people had been displaced in the Gaza Strip. Israel has said Hamas bears responsibility for civilian casualties because it operates among non-combatants and uses schools and mosques to store weapons and as launch sites for rockets.

Many of the thousands of rockets fired at Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, a partly US-funded project hailed by many Israelis as an example of their nation's high-tech capabilities.


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