Calm Returns as Gaza-Israel Ceasefire Holds

As life in Gaza began to show signs that it was returning to normal, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned that Israel may resume its attacks any time if a truce that ended a week of bloodshed fails to hold.

The ceasefire “can last nine days, nine weeks or more, but if it does not hold we will know what to do, and then of course we shall consider the possibility of resuming our (military) activity in case of shooting or provocation,” he told public radio on Thursday.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh held a press briefing on Thursday and thanked Egypt and “believer” Mohamed Morsi for his country’s efforts in securing the ceasefire saying Gaza’s victory is clear and the moment for Egypt and the region had arrived.

“I thank our Egyptian brothers and Egyptian intelligence for their tireless efforts to reach the ceasefire. We are satisfied with the ceasefire agreement as a basis for stopping aggression against Gaza.”

The morning after it took effect, the ceasefire was being honoured in the Gaza Strip, after eight days of cross-border violence that resulted in the deaths of 162 Palestinians and five Israelis.

Obtained after an intense diplomatic push led by Egypt and the US, the truce came into force at 1900 GMT on Wednesday, based on text of the agreement.

After days and nights cooped up at home, their buildings rocked by an unrelenting Israeli bombing campaign and the sound of outgoing Palestinian rocket fire, residents were eager to reclaim their hometowns and their lives as the truce came into effect.

For the first time in more than a week, the noise of traffic jams and honking horns filled the air in Gaza City, replacing the booms of air strikes and rocket fire.

Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza City, said that there was calm in the city without the sound of the F16’s flying above.

Public Holiday

Late on Wednesday night, the ruling Hamas government announced that Thursday would be a public holiday.

“The Palestinian government announces that Thursday November 22 is a national holiday of victory and an official holiday,” it said in a statement.

Palestinians in Gaza celebrated the truce and resumed their day to day activities, which had stopped from November 14 with Israel’s targeted killing of a senior Hamas military commander, but some Israelis demonstrated against the deal.

The truce, reached late on Wednesday night, was announced in a joint press conference in Cairo by Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Kamel Amr and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Under the ceasefire terms, Israel was to stop all aggression against the Gaza Strip from land, sea and air, including cross-border incursions and targeted killings.

Palestinian factions were to cease all rocket fire and attacks from Gaza towards Israel, including along the border.

Twenty-four hours after the ceasefire takes effect, Israel will also be committed to opening of all border crossings and ease restrictions on movements of people and goods in and out of the enclave.

Other Side

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Ashkelon in Israel, said that while Israel was hailing the ceasefire a victory, most people she had spoken to in the area were not happy about the truce with Hamas.

She said that there were demonstrations on Wednesday in Sderot and Beer’ Sheva and that people were saying that Binyamin Netanyahu had a choice between war and selling out and that he chose selling out.

“To the question of whether they would vote for Netanyahu again, most of the answers were a straight no,” she said. Israel is due to hold an election early next year.

“There is bitterness and a feeling that a victory was handed over to Hamas. Some said that Netanyahu “betrayed” them but he will still win the elections because there is no one else,” she said.

Al Jazeera’s Tom Ackerman reporting from Jerusalem said that there were also no celebratory events there. He said that people were sceptic even though the government said that all objectives had been achieved by the operation.

Israel also arrested 55 people in the West Bank on Thursday in response to a bus-bomb attack in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. This was the first serious bombing in Israel’s commercial capital since 2006.

(Al Jazeera and Agencies)

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