Gaza City, Aug 27 (AFP): Life in Gaza resumed some semblance of normality today as a long-term truce took hold following a deal hailed by Israel and Hamas as ‘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.
“We were able to sleep!” said a Gazan man, Alaa al-Jaro.
“We had the best sleep ever after the Israeli aggression ended.”
“A ceasefire has been signed, and this time it should last, not like before,” said 16-year-old Raed Alaa Habeb from Gaza City’s battered Shejaiya neighbourhood.
“We trust in this ceasefire.”
The agreement, effective from 2130 IST yesterday, saw the warring sides agree to a “permanent” ceasefire which Israel said would not be limited by time, in a move hailed by Washington, the United Nations and top world diplomats.
Both Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement, the de facto authority in Gaza, hailed the ceasefire as a victory.
But commentators took a more realistic perspective. “A draw” was the headline in Maariv newspaper.
Some said the two sides agreed to halt their fire out of exhaustion after seven weeks of fighting that claimed the lives of 2,143 Palestinians and 70 on the Israeli side.
“After 50 days of fighting, the two sides were exhausted so that’s why they reached a ceasefire,” Middle East expert Eyal Zisser told AFP.
Politically, Hamas had “not achieved anything” but to really weaken it, Israel would have to resume peace talks with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, he said.
Under the deal, Israel will ease restrictions on the entry of goods, humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza, and expand the offshore area open to Palestinian fishermen to six nautical miles.
But talks on Hamas demands for a port and an airport and the release of prisoners, as well as Israel’s calls to disarm militant groups, are delayed until negotiators return to Cairo within the coming month.
Even ahead of the Cairo talks, Israel staked out a firm stance on how it will approach the upcoming negotiations.
“There will be no port, no airport and no entry of materials that could be used to produce rockets or build tunnels,” said deputy foreign minister Tzahi HaNegbi, a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“That will be our position which we will present at the negotiations in Cairo,” he told public radio.
Israel has consistently linked Gaza’s reconstruction with its demilitarisation, with former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror saying Hamas must choose between its desire to see Gaza rebuilt and its desire to re-arm.