The war in Gaza ended on Tuesday 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 beginning at 7pm on Tuesday evening, bringing relief to civilians on both sides of the border. The Israeli army said in a statement on Wednesday that there had been no reports of violence since the ceasefire began.
Rocket fire and air strikes had continued until the last moments, and sirens sounded across southern Israel past 7pm. Two Israelis were killed and several injured by a mortar shortly before the deadline, the Israel Defence Forces said. In Gaza two children were killed in an air strike in Khan Younis shortly before the ceasefire, and police reported that an Israeli air strike flattened a seven-storey building in Beit Lahiya, the sixth high-rise to be toppled since the weekend.
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.