GAZA CITY: Celebrations erupted in Gaza on Tuesday as a long-term ceasefire agreed by Israel and the Palestinians began, ending 50 days of the deadliest violence in a decade.
The agreement, effective since 1600 GMT, involves an immediate halt to the violence in Gaza, which erupted on July 8 and has claimed the lives of 2,143 Palestinians and 69 on the Israeli side.
The Palestinians said it was a “permanent” truce, while a senior Israeli official described it as “unconditional and unlimited in time.
“Washington gave its full backing to the deal. “We strongly support the ceasefire announcement,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced hope that the ceasefire in Gaza will set the stage for talks on a final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
In Gaza itself, thousands flooded on to the streets in celebration, some firing joyfully into the air, among them gunmen from Hamas, AFP correspondents said.
Chanting and clapping they surged through the battered streets, bellowing songs of victory as a man swathed in a huge green Hamas flag threw handfuls of sweets into the air.
Mosques used their loudspeakers to broadcast celebratory chants of “God is greatest” as the war-torn enclave hailed the apparent end to seven weeks of violence that has seen a quarter of the territory´s 1.8 million people flee their homes.
“Thank God the war is ended. I can´t believe I´m still alive with my kids!” 32-year-old Maha Khaled told AFP.
“It was a very harsh war. I never thought that we would see peace at the end.”Cars jammed the streets, their horns honking incessantly, as beaming women and children held up the victory sign and crowds of young men bounced up and down on nearby rooftops, waving flags.
As night fell, there was no letup in the celebrations as the rhythmic thud of drums beat a celebratory note and a performer breathed fire to entertain the ecstatic crowd.
“Today Gaza showed the world that it is resisting and that it is stronger than Israel,” said Tamer al-Madqa, 23.