Thousands of Palestinians have taken to the streets of the Gaza Strip to celebrate the news of a truce meant to end weeks of fighting. Palestinian militant groups have sought to frame the truce as a victory over Israel.
The latest ceasefire agreed between Israel and the Palestinians came into force at 7 p.m. local time (16:00 UTC). Shortly after it came into effect, thousands took to the streets of the coastal territory to celebrate the apparent end of 50 days of fighting that claimed more than 2,000 Palestinian lives, most of whom were civilians.
Correspondents reported that the loudspeakers of mosques blared out chants normally reserved for Muslim holidays.
Even as the announcement of the truce was being made, the sound of Israeli air strikes could be heard in Gaza, and Israeli media reported that rocket fire from the Palestinian territory had continued after the ceasefire was meant to take effect.
The news of the ceasefire was first announced by Hamas and another Palestinian militant group, Islamic Jihad, which described it as an "open-ended" truce, and including an agreement by Israel to ease its seven-year-old blockade of the territory to allow essential supplies and construction material to enter.
It was some time later that the Egyptian mediators who helped broker the ceasefire made the announcement that deal was official.
Still later came confirmation from Israel.
"We have accepted once again the Egyptian ceasefire proposals, which call for a cessation of all hostilities," the DPA news agency cited an unnamed Israeli official as saying. AFP quoted an unnamed senior Israeli official who described the truce as being "unconditional and unlimited in time."
Despite the fact that more than 2,000 Gaza residents were killed in the Israeli offensive aimed at stopping militant rocket attacks on the Jewish state, Hamas sought to frame the truce as a victory over Israel.
"Our armed resistance achieved what the Arab armies had failed to achieve," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, 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."
In addition to those killed, the past seven weeks of violence saw more than 17,000 residences destroyed in Gaza, leaving 100,000 Palestinians homeless, according to United Nations estimates.
On the Israeli side, 68 people have been killed, all but four of whom were soldiers.
Despite the ceasefire agreement, many issues are still to be resolved between the two sides. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians were "to continue within the space of a month."
pfd/jr (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)