Celebrations in Gaza after truce


GAZA CITY: Celebratory gunfire erupted in Gaza Tuesday after a long-term truce agreed between Israel and the Palestinians went into effect, aimed at ending 50 days of bloodshed.

Thousands of Palestinians flooded on to the streets of Gaza City, including gunmen — some from Hamas — who fired in the air in celebration just moments after the truce began, AFP correspondents said.

Mosques used their loudspeakers to broadcast celebratory chants as the wartorn enclave hailed the apparent end to some of the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence in a decade.

Officials from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the main groups fighting in Gaza, said the deal will help end a seven-week war that has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians. There was no immediate Israeli comment.

Ziad Nakhala, a senior official in Islamic Jihad, said the deal calls for an “open-ended” cease-fire, and an Israeli agreement to ease its blockade of Gaza to allow relief supplies and construction materials into the war-battered territory.

Talks on more complex issues, such as Hamas’ demand to build an airport and a seaport for Gaza, would begin in a month, he said.

If the details of the cease-fire are confirmed, it would effectively mean Hamas and Islamic Jihad settled for terms that are similar to those that ended more than a week of fighting with Israel in 2012.

Under those terms, Israel promised to ease restrictions gradually, while Hamas pledged to halt rocket fire from Gaza at Israel. The truce held for long stretches, but Gaza’s border blockade also remained largely intact.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises with dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing one building and severely damaging the other in a further escalation of seven weeks of cross-border fighting with Hamas.

In the past, the military has hit targets in high-rises in pinpoint strikes, but left the buildings standing. Since Saturday, it has toppled or destroyed five towers and shopping complexes in an apparent new tactic aimed at increasing pressure on Hamas. The objects of the latest strikes contain apartments inhabited almost exclusively by middle-class Gazans.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade in 2007. Under the restrictions, virtually all of Gaza’s 1.8 million people cannot trade or travel.


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