Long-term ceasefire begins in Gaza

Children hold up guns (one with an empty magazine) from a car as Palestinians gather in the streets to celebrate a ceasefire which ends 50 days of conflict. Photo / AFP
Children hold up guns (one with an empty magazine) from a car as Palestinians gather in the streets to celebrate a ceasefire which ends 50 days of conflict. Photo / AFP

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, involves 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 has 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 mmovment, 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.

In a statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry said there would be an immediate opening of Israeli border crossings to allow in both aid and reconstruction supplies.

There had been no sign of any letup in the fighting earlier on Tuesday, with 12 Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes and tank shelling, among them two children.

And on the other side of the border, an Israeli was killed and two others seriously wounded when a mortar round struck next to a swimming pool in a kibbutz close to the frontier.

Israel also bombed two high rises in Gaza City, wounding 40 people. One was a 16-storey complex in which there were 60 flats and a shopping centre, while the second was a 14-storey residential block.

The army said they had housed "Hamas command and control centres" but Hamas denounced the move as a "war crime aimed at terrorising the people."

- AFP

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