December 22, 2014
Gaza 'indefinite' ceasefire takes effect; thousands celebrate
A ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Palestinians aimed at ending their seven-week conflict in Gaza went into effect today and joyous Palestinians streamed into the streets of the battered enclave to celebrate.
Minutes before the Egyptian-brokered truce began at 1600 GMT, a rocket fired by Palestinian militants killed one person in an Israeli kibbutz, or collective farm, near the Gaza border, police said.
Palestinian and Egyptian officials said the deal calls for an indefinite halt to hostilities, the immediate opening of Gaza's blockaded crossings with Israel and Egypt and a widening of the territory's fishing zone in the Mediterranean.
A senior official of the Islamist group Hamas, which runs Gaza, voiced willingness for the security forces of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the unity government he formed in June to control the passage points.
Both Israel and Egypt view Hamas as a security threat and are seeking guarantees that weapons will not enter the territory of 1.8 million people.
Under a second stage of the truce that would begin a month later, Israel and the Palestinians would discuss the construction of a Gaza sea port and Israel's release of Hamas prisoners in the occupied West Bank, the officials said.
After the ceasefire began, crowds and traffic filled the Gaza streets. Car horns blared and recorded chants praising God sounded from mosque loudspeakers.
"Today we declare the victory of the resistance, today we declare the victory of Gaza," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
Israel gave a low-key response to the truce.
A statement issued by a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had accepted the Egyptian proposal for "an open-ended ceasefire" and would attend Cairo talks on Gaza's future only if there was a "total end to terror attacks" from the enclave.