Long-term ceasefire

GAZA CITY – Celebrations have erupted in Gaza as a long-term ceasefire agreed by Israel and the Palestinians went into effect, ending 50 days of the deadliest violence in a decade.

The agreement, which came into effect late on Tuesday, involved an immediate halt to the violence in Gaza, which began on July 8 and has claimed the lives of 2143 Palestinians and 69 on the Israeli side.

The Palestinians said it was a “permanent” truce, while a senior Israeli official described it as “unconditional and unlimited in time”.

As the ceasefire took hold, thousands of Palestinians flooded on to the streets of Gaza City, some firing joyfully into the air, among them gunmen from Hamas, AFP correspondents said.

Mosques used their loudspeakers to broadcast celebratory chants of “God is greatest” as the war-torn enclave hailed the apparent end to seven weeks of violence that had seen a quarter of the territory’s 1.8 million people flee their homes.

“Thank God the war is ended. I can’t believe I’m still alive with my kids!” 32-year-old Maha Khaled told AFP.

The Islamist Hamas movement, the dominant power in Gaza, hailed the deal as a “victory for the resistance”.

The formal announcement came from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in a live speech at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Shortly afterwards, Israel confirmed its acceptance of the deal, saying the negotiating teams would return to Cairo “within a month” but without saying when.

“We have accepted, once again, an Egyptian proposal for an unconditional and unlimited-in-time ceasefire,” a senior official said.

“The framework includes an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and then, inside a month, both delegations will be in Cairo raising issues with the Egyptians,” he said.

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