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Israel-Gaza ceasefire begins

Hamas claims 'victory' but uncertainty surrounds a terms of a final deal
Gaza has been under fire for 50 days, with more than 2,100 Palestinians killed in the conflict (AFP)

A lasting ceasefire between Hamas and Israel has been agreed, various sources announced on Tuesday. 

Official Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian sources have now all announced that a deal has been reached and that a ceasefire came into effect at 7pm local time (1600 GMT). 

Confusion had surrounded the timing of the truce, with reports previously flying around that fighting would only end at 11pm local time, or possibly midnight. 

However, while Israeli drones continue to be heard overhead, it now appears that the truce is in effect and holding. 

MEE's contributor in Gaza, Mohammed Omer, told MEE that a heavy barrage of rockets hit Gaza in the run-up to the 7pm deadline. 

"There has been indiscriminate and very heavy attacks in the last few hours," Omer said. "Both sides mean to pass on the last message that they are the ones with the most power. The drones are everywhere and we have seen a massive number of strikes throughout Gaza."

Before the ceasefire was announced, seven Palestinians and one Israeli were killed in the fighting on Tuesday. The Iron Dome was used to intercept several rockets and continued to be active shortly after 7pm. 

The terms of a ceasefire are yet to be announced although Hamas has been quick to call the deal a "victory." 

"We have achieved most of our goals and targets - we hit the occupation," a Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum told media. "In the future the resistance will be about to go to Jerusalem and [the current war] paves the way to our target of reaching al Aqsa and Jerusalem.

"Today, we are telling Israel as the agreement has started - you can go home because of a decision taken by Hamas, not taken by Netanyahu," he added. 

It is expected that a deal, brokered by Egypt, will be broadly similar to that agreed in 2012. Israel will open its land border crossings on its border and extend the permitted fishing zone. The Egyptian crossing with Rafah will also be opened and reconstruction will be allowed to begin. 

Initial reports from Egyptian officials suggest that the controversial issue of opening up a sea port and an airport was not in the deal and that further negotiations on this have been delayed for a month. 

The Israelis have so far stayed tight-lipped on the deal, although Justice Minister Tzipi Livni previously insisted that a truce must not give Hamas any significant political victory. 

Other cabinet members, including Foreign minister Naftali Avigdor Lieberman voiced their objection to the deal. 

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, also confirmed the deal saying that it was time to rebuild Gaza. 

"An end to the killing will come at the same time as the entry of humanitarian, medical and building materials," Abbas said. 

"We fully appreciate the efforts of Egypt" in reaching a ceasefire, but we "stress again that Qatar has played a role in this regard."

"John Kerry, US Secretary of State, has exerted some efforts. The disaster there in Gaza is beyond imagination. Stopping the fighting was the main topic that was discussed with the Hamas leaders in Qatar."

More than 2,100 Palestinians - mostly civilians - and 69 Israelis - largely soliders have been killed in the 50 day conflict. 

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