First Gaza ceasefire terms take effect | News | DW | 27.08.2014
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First Gaza ceasefire terms take effect

The first terms agreed to within Hamas and Israel's open-ended ceasefire have come into effect in Gaza, as thousands of displaced Palestinians return home. Further truce talks will continue in Egypt next month.

Thousands of Palestinians began returning home on Wednesday following the open-ended ceasefire, declared by Hamas and Israel on Tuesday.

The ceasefire, which has been hailed by the United Nations and leading world diplomats, began at 7 p.m. local time (1600 UTC) on Tuesday, bringing 50 days of widely criticized bloodshed to an end.

The fishing zone for Palestinian fishermen in the Mediterranean was already expanded before dawn on Wednesday, with boats now allowed to fish up to six nautical miles from shore. The limit is expected to be extended in time to 12 miles, which still falls short of the 20-mile limit which was written into the 1994 Oslo Peace Accords.

Under the terms of the ceasefire, Israel will also relax restrictions at the two border crossings with Gaza, enabling vital goods to be transported into the impoverished Gaza Strip.

On Wednesday, a UN humanitarian aid convoy was able to take enough food for 150,000 people for five days into Gaza through the Rafah crossing.

Israel first imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after an Israeli soldier was captured by militants there.

Negotiating teams will return to Cairo "within a month," where the disarming of Gaza militant groups will be a key demand in further truce talks, according to Israeli officials.

Issues such as Hamas' demand for a port and an airport in Gaza will also be addressed at forthcoming meetings.

Despite there being no clear victor after almost two months of conflict, Hamas, which dominates Gaza, said the agreement with Israel was a "victory for the resistance".

Abu Zuhri, a senior spokesman for Hamas, called the ceasefire a Palestinian victory.

"Our armed resistance achieved what the Arab armies had failed to achieve," said Abu Zuhri, adding that "this besieged weak people defeated the strongest ... army in the Middle East and destroyed the enemy's power of deterrence and the legend of the army that can never be defeated."

However, an Israeli government official has criticized Hamas for the delay in accepting the truce, saying that almost identical terms were available almost a month ago.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including about 400 children, were killed during the seven weeks of Gaza's deadliest violence in a decade. A further 11,000 people have been injured.

The Israeli authorities also confirmed that 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed, along with six civilians killed in Israel.

According to the UN, more than 17,000 buildings in Gaza were destroyed or severely damaged during the conflict, with more than a quarter of the territory's 1.8 million population being internally displaced.

ksb/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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