Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday reached a long-term ceasefire after seven weeks of fighting, according to officials on both sides, halting the longest, bloodiest battle either side has experienced in years — but without resolving many of the bigger issues underlying the conflict.
“Israel has once again accepted an Egyptian proposal for a complete ceasefire,” a senior Israeli official said. “This ceasefire is unlimited in time.”
Shouts of “God is great” rang out from mosque loudspeakers across Gaza City, as people fired gunshots into the air to celebrate.
“We declare the victory of the Palestinian resistance, the victory of Gaza,” Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas that dominates Gaza and led the Palestinian militants’ operation, announced at a news conference at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. “We achieved some of our instantaneous demands out of this battle.”
The agreement came on the 50th day of a conflict that has killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and displaced at least a third of its 1.7 million residents. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and five civilians were killed — the last one even as the ceasefire was being announced, as mortar rounds from Gaza struck near a swimming pool on a kibbutz just beyond its border.
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People familiar with the agreement said it would ease but not lift Israeli restrictions on travel and trade, largely reviving the terms of a 2012 ceasefire agreement that ended an eight-day air war. It also will allow construction materials and humanitarian aid to enter Gaza in large quantities for a major rebuilding effort, with a monitoring mechanism to ensure that concrete and cement would go only to civilian purposes.
“We’re not interested in allowing Hamas to rebuild its military machine,” the Israeli official said.
Other issues — including Hamas’s demand for a Gaza seaport and airport, Israel’s demand for Gaza’s demilitarization, and the return of Israeli soldiers’ remains believed to be in Hamas’s hands — were to be addressed after a month if the truce holds, people familiar with the agreement said.
Drafts of a document outlining ceasefire terms had been passed back and forth throughout the day on Tuesday, even as Israeli airstrikes killed at least half a dozen people in Gaza and felled two high-rise buildings.
Israel’s felling of two Gaza City towers took place in the early hours on Tuesday, after having destroyed an 11-story Gaza City apartment tower on Saturday. NYT