Israel, Hamas agree to open-ended Gaza cease-fire
by Mohammed Daraghmeh, Associated Press
August 26, 2014 02:45 PM | 618 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Palestinian woman gets emotional as she stands on the rubble of a house belong to al Akhras family after it was hit by an Israeli strike in Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, early Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Two people were wounded in the airstrke on a house at the Rafah refugee camp, according Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
A Palestinian woman gets emotional as she stands on the rubble of a house belong to al Akhras family after it was hit by an Israeli strike in Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, early Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Two people were wounded in the airstrke on a house at the Rafah refugee camp, according Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
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A Palestinian relative salvages what he can from his family's belongings amid the rubble of the al-Akhras family home after it was hit by Israeli strike in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Two people were wounded in the airstrike on the house according Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
A Palestinian relative salvages what he can from his family's belongings amid the rubble of the al-Akhras family home after it was hit by Israeli strike in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Two people were wounded in the airstrike on the house according Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. (AP Photo/Eyad Baba)
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Smoke and dust rise after an Israeli strike hits in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. The latest strikes came as Egypt urged Israel and Hamas to resume indirect talks on a permanent cease-fire, based on an Egyptian proposal for a new border deal for blockaded Gaza. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Smoke and dust rise after an Israeli strike hits in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. The latest strikes came as Egypt urged Israel and Hamas to resume indirect talks on a permanent cease-fire, based on an Egyptian proposal for a new border deal for blockaded Gaza. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
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A police sapper surveys a home hit by a rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip Tuesday morning in the costal city of Ashkelon, Israel, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
A police sapper surveys a home hit by a rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip Tuesday morning in the costal city of Ashkelon, Israel, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
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Palestinians have a coffee next to the rubble of the 15-story Basha Tower that collapsed from early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Tuesday's strikes leveled the Basha Tower with apartments and offices and severely damaged another high-rise, the Italian Complex, built in the 1990s by an Italian businessman, with dozens of shops and offices. Both buildings were evacuated after receiving warnings of impending strikes. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinians have a coffee next to the rubble of the 15-story Basha Tower that collapsed from early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Tuesday's strikes leveled the Basha Tower with apartments and offices and severely damaged another high-rise, the Italian Complex, built in the 1990s by an Italian businessman, with dozens of shops and offices. Both buildings were evacuated after receiving warnings of impending strikes. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel and Hamas agreed Tuesday to an open-ended cease-fire, halting a seven-week war that killed more than 2,200 people, the vast majority Palestinians, left tens of thousands in Gaza homeless and devastated entire neighborhoods in the blockaded territory.

Hamas declared victory and bursts of celebratory gunfire erupted across Gaza, but the terms of the deal fell far short of Hamas' demand that Israel and Egypt open Gaza's borders.

Under the Egyptian-brokered deal, Israel is to ease imports into Gaza, including aid and material for reconstruction. It also allows Palestinians to fish six nautical miles offshore, up from three nautical miles.

In a month, the cease-fire calls for talks to begin in Cairo on more complex issues, including building a seaport and airport in Gaza, and Israel's demand that Hamas disarm.

However, the agreement appeared to contain no major Israeli concessions and previous understandings after a round of fighting in 2012 quickly dissipated.

Previous cease-fire deals have collapsed since the war began July 8, and it was not clear if this one would hold. The truce took effect at 7 p.m. local time (1600 GMT), but violence persisted until the last minute.

In Israel, mortar shells fired from Gaza killed one man and seriously wounded two people, authorities said.

In Gaza, police reported that an Israeli airstrike 13 minutes before the cease-fire began collapsed a five-story building in the town of Beit Lahiya. Booms from Israeli strikes could be heard in Gaza after the truce announcement was made.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a long-time rival of Hamas, likely will play a key role in any new border deal for Gaza. Abbas lost control of Gaza after Hamas seized the territory in 2007. He is expected to regain a foothold there under the Egyptian-brokered agreement.

In such a scenario, forces loyal to Abbas could be posted at Gaza's border crossings to allay fears by Israel and Egypt about renewed attempts by Hamas to smuggle weapons into the territory.

Israel also is concerned that material for reconstruction could be diverted by Hamas for military purposes. In recent years, Hamas has built a network of attack tunnels under the border with Gaza that Israel says its forces largely demolished during the Gaza war.

In a televised address Tuesday night, Abbas said the end of the war underscored the need to find a permanent solution to the conflict with Israel.

"What's next? Gaza has been subjected to three wars. Shall we expect another war in a year or two? Until when will this issue be without a solution?" he asked.

Aides have said Abbas plans to ask the U.N. Security Council to demand Israel's withdrawal from all lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war to make way for an independent Palestinian state.

Abbas alluded to the plan in his speech.

"Today, I'm going to give the Palestinian leadership my vision for a solution and after that we will continue consultations with the international community," he said. "This vision must be clear and well defined and we are not going to an open-ended negotiation."

In Gaza, Hamas declared victory even though it had little to show for seven weeks of fighting. The war killed more than 2,140 Palestinians and wounded more than 11,000, Palestinian health officials said. The U.N. says about three-fourths of the Palestinians killed have been civilians.

"We are here today to declare the victory of the resistance, the victory of Gaza, with the help of God, and the steadfastness of our people and the noble resistance," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a news conference at Gaza's Shifa Hospital.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. "strongly supported" the cease-fire agreement and asked all sides to comply with their terms after others had broken down.

"We view this as an opportunity, not a certainty," Psaki told journalists. "Today's agreement comes after many hours and days of negotiations and discussions. But certainly there's a long road ahead. And we're aware of that and we're going into this eyes wide open."

Israel and Egypt imposed the border blockade after the Hamas takeover of 2007. Under the restrictions, virtually all of Gaza's 1.8 million people cannot trade or travel. Only a few thousand are able to leave the coastal territory every month.

During the war, Hamas had said it would only cease fire if the blockade is lifted.

However, Israeli pressure on the group has been escalating. Hamas is believed to be left with just one-third of its initial rocket arsenal of 10,000.

On the Israeli side, 69 people have been killed, all but five of them soldiers. Thousands of Israelis living near Gaza have fled their homes, including in recent days when Gaza militants stepped up mortar fire on southern Israel.

The Gaza war stems from the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank by Hamas operatives in June, which triggered a massive Israeli arrest campaign in the West Bank, followed by an increase in rocket fire from Gaza.

Since the fighting began, Israel has launched some 5,000 airstrikes at Gaza, while Gaza militants have fired close to 4,000 rockets and mortars, according to the Israeli military.

___

Daraghmeh reported from Ramallah, West Bank.

___

Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb in Cairo, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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