As a 72-hour cease-fire mediated by Egypt took hold Tuesday morning, Israel announced that it had withdrawn its forces from Gaza and Hamas said it would engage in talks on a lasting arrangement to keep the peace.
Most Israeli troops had already pulled back from populated areas in Gaza, and many had redeployed in Israel. But as late as Monday, Israeli officials had said that the army would maintain some positions inside Gaza, and the announcement of a complete pullout appeared to be a major concession to the Egyptian initiative. By late morning, the chief army spokesman, Gen. Moti Almoz, said all Israeli forces had left Gaza. “There were a number of forces inside,” he told army radio. “But all of them have left.”
Gaza officials say that 1,834 Palestinians have died in the conflict, most of them civilians. Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed since fighting began on July 8.
Just before the cease-fire went into effect at 8 a.m., a last salvo of rockets were fired toward Israel from Gaza, causing warning sirens to sound in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, while the Israeli air force carried out at least five strikes in Gaza, a customary “last word” before another in a series of conflicts between Israel and Hamas comes to an end.
In Gaza City, there was little sense of celebration that the fighting had stopped, although many of those interviewed said they thought this cease-fire was more likely to succeed than previous ones, which quickly collapsed amid new violence.
Gaza’s streets slowly filled with cars, donkey carts and trucks, many of them piled with the belongings of displaced families moving from one spot to another toting mattresses, kitchen supplies and bags of clothes.
Residents began to venture out more freely, going to shops and banks, or just taking a walk. Fruit stands were full of pears and watermelons, though they had few customers. Men had returned to their familiar stations on plastic chairs outside electronics shops. A pack of adolescent boys strode down one street; two on bicycles streamed down another. A man sat in a barber’s chair, orange smock on his shoulders, getting a trim.
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SOURCE: The New York Times
Steven Erlanger and Ben Hubbard