Gaza ceasefire holding as focus turns to longer term

An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire went into effect on Tuesday, bringing to a halt 51 days of relentless Israeli attacks on the blockaded coastal enclave.

Gaza ceasefire holding as focus turns to longer term

World Bulletin/News Desk

An open-ended ceasefire in the Gaza war between Israel and the Palestinians held on Wednesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced strong criticism in his country's newspapers over a campaign in which no clear victor emerged.

On the streets of the battered Palestinian enclave, people headed to shops and banks, trying to resume the normal pace of life after seven weeks of fighting.

In Israel, media commentators voiced deep disappointment over Netanyahu's leadership during the most prolonged bout of Israeli-Palestinian violence in a decade.

Netanyahu, who has faced constant sniping from far-right members of his coalition government demanding military action to topple Hamas, made no immediate comment on the Egyptian-mediated truce deal that took effect on Tuesday evening.

Palestinian health officials say 2,139 people, most of them civilians, including more than 490 children, have been killed in the enclave since July 8.

Israel's death toll stood at 64 soldiers and six civilians.

The ceasefire agreement called for an indefinite halt to hostilities, the immediate opening of Gaza's blockaded crossings with Israel and Egypt, and a widening of the territory's fishing zone in the Mediterranean.

Under a second stage of the truce that would begin a month later, Israel and the Palestinians would discuss the construction of a Gaza sea port and Israel's release of Hamas prisoners in the occupied West Bank, possibly in a trade for the remains of two Israeli soldiers believed held by Hamas, the officials said.

CELEBRATIONS IN PALESTINE

Thousands of homes in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or damaged, and the United Nations has named a panel to investigate possible war crimes.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said 540,000 people had been displaced in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian resistance factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad have thanked Egypt for sponsoring indirect negotiations with Israel for reaching a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the two factions praised Egypt's role in striking the ceasefire deal that have led to the opening of Gaza's crossings.

The two groups went on to underline the depth of relations between the Palestinian and Egyptian peoples.

The streets of the West Bank have been bustling with celebrations through the night as Palestinians hailed an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal that brought a weeks-long Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip to an indefinite halt as a "victory for the resistance."

In Ramallah, hundreds of Palestinians gathered in Al-Manarah Square to celebrate the deal, raising Hamas flags and setting off fireworks, an Anadolu Agency correspondent reported.

"Today, the resistance won and broke the nose of the strongest army in the Middle East," Azaam Gomaa, an engineer, told Anadolu Agency as he joined the jubilant gathering.

Iyad Saloum, a laboratory technician, nodded in agreement. "The resistance proved that they can do what other Arab countries failed to do, even with its poor arsenal," he said. "The resistance imposed this ceasefire deal on the occupation," he added.

A similar euphoric scene was  seen in the northern city of Nablus, where hundreds marched the streets in celebration, raising the Palestinian flags and Hamas banners.

"We consider the ceasefire as a victory for the Islamic nation," Alaa Abdel-Salam, a Nablus merchant, told AA.

Malek Ashour, a shop owner who also lives in Nablus, paid tribute to the Ezzeddin al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, and other resistance groups for "making the Islamic world proud."

Celebrations were also held in the cities of Hebron, Bethlehem, Jenin and Tulkarm.

"NO VICTORY FOR ISRAEL"

Nahum Barnea, one of Israel's most popular columnists, expressed concern "that instead of paving the way to removing the threat from Gaza, we are paving the road to the next round, in Lebanon or in Gaza".

"The Israelis expected a leader, a statesman who knows what he wants to achieve, someone who makes decisions and engages in a sincere and real dialogue with his public," he wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth. "They received a seasoned spokesperson, and very little beyond that."

Ben Caspit, writing in the Maariv daily, said there was no victory for Israel in a conflict that resulted in "a collapsed tourism industry (and) an economy approaching recession".

"After 50 days of warfare in which a terror organisation killed dozens of soldiers and civilians, destroyed the daily routine (and) placed the country in a state of economic distress...we could have expected much more than an announcement of a ceasefire," analyst Shimon Shiffer wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's biggest-selling newspaper.

"We could have expected the prime minister to go to the President's Residence and inform him of his decision to resign his post."

But defending Netanyahu, Alex Fishman, Yedioth Ahronoth's military affairs correspondent, wrote: "It can be said to the credit of the prime minister and the defense minister that they discerned the pointlessness of this confrontation from the first moment, and seized every opportunity for a ceasefire."

The United States and United Nations urged both sides to comply with the terms of the agreement.

"We are all aware that this is an opportunity, not a certainty," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. "We have been down this road before and we are all aware of the challenges ahead."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 27 Ağustos 2014, 11:41

Muhammed Öylek

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