Celebrations continued in the Gaza Strip late into last night following the cease-fire agreement. Addressing an enthusiastic crowd, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Hamas “permitted” the Israeli residents of the communities near the border fence to return to their homes. “We attained victory when we were able to smash Israel’s deterrence,” he said.
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The cease-fire was announced yesterday afternoon by the deputy head of the Hamas political wing, Ismail Haniyeh and thereafter, an announcement came from senior member of the political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk: “The negotiations have ended and we have reached understandings that crown the strong position of the Palestinian people and the victory of the resistance.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a preliminary announcement of the cease-fire half an hour before it went into effect. Later at a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, Abbas said that the United Nations would bring immediate assistance to the Gaza Strip and said he hoped the parties would return at the end of the month to negotiations over the other matters. Abbas said the United States and Qatar had helped negotiate the cease-fire.
Hamas said the agreement included the opening of the crossings, humanitarian aid and rehabilitation and that a month after the cease-fire, Egypt will invite the parties to negotiate over three main issues: a seaport, airport and the arrest of prisoners who had been released in the Gilad Shalit exchange. An Egyptian official told Haaretz that activity at the crossings would be studied, as confidence building measures, before Palestinian Authority forces assumed operation of the Rafah crossing.
However, it is unclear when the PA forces would return to the crossing. A Palestinian official said that the agreement regarding the return of the PA forces was attained in direct talks between the PA and Hamas on the one hand, and with Israel on the other hand. He said there were no Israeli guarantees of the terms of the agreement, which was one of Hamas’ demands. Abu Marzouk told the media that the agreement also promised that Israel would cease assassinating senior Hamas political and military officials, would enable payment of the salaries of all the government officials in Gaza including Hamas officials, and that the Palestinian unity government would take charge of rehabilitation, payment of the salaries, and expanding fishing zones off the Gaza coast.
A senior Fatah official and member of the Palestinian delegation to the Cairo cease-fire talks, Azzam al-Ahmed, said early yesterday morning that a cease-fire could be attained at any moment but that “hidden hands” were preventing it.
According to al-Ahmed, the Palestinians’ position is much better than in the agreements attained in 2012 and Egypt showed great flexibility toward the Palestinian positions.