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Hamas and Israel agree to truce that opens more Gaza border crossings

August 26, 2014 at 6:08 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: In the Middle East, the bloody battle between Israel and Hamas which took thousands of lives this summer appears to be ending. A new cease-fire was announced this afternoon.

Celebratory gunfire rang out in Gaza City, where people poured into the streets on news that seven weeks of war might finally be over. The formal announcement came from Egypt, which mediated talks, on and off, for weeks.

In its essentials, the statement said, Israel and Hamas accepted what they called an open-ended truce. And Israel agreed to open more border crossings, allowing humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007, is expected to take over administration of Gaza’s borders.

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS, Palestinian National Authority (through interpreter): We hope that this will fulfill the demands and needs of our people in Gaza and provide all their food and medical requirements and to begin the rebuilding of all that had been destroyed.

GWEN IFILL: If the cease-fire holds, new talks on other issues would begin in a month. Those issues could range from Hamas demands to rebuild Gaza’s bombed-out airport and construct a seaport, to Israel’s demand that Hamas disarm.

The terms of the cease-fire deal contained no major concession by the Israelis. But Hamas says there’s no doubt who won this latest war.

SAMI ABU ZUHRI, Hamas Spokesman (through interpreter): We are here today, after achieving an agreement between the two sides, to announce the victory of resistance. We are here today to announce the victory of Gaza.

GWEN IFILL: On the Israeli side, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu painted the outcome differently.

MARK REGEV, Israeli Government Spokesman: Israel has accepted the Egyptian cease-fire proposal. We hope that this time, the cease-fire will stick, and I think now that, as the dust will begin to clear, many people will be asking, why is it that, today, Hamas accepted the very same Egyptian framework that it rejected a month ago? Ultimately, so much bloodshed could have been avoided.

GWEN IFILL: The cease-fire followed another night of Israeli airstrikes on high-rise buildings in Gaza. They leveled a 15-story apartment and office complex and severely damaged another.

By day, Palestinians viewed the destruction that left 25 people wounded. The buildings had largely been evacuated before the bombings, after Israeli warnings. The final hours of fighting also saw more rockets hit Southern Israel. One struck a home in Ashkelon, injuring a dozen people. And a mortar strike killed one Israeli.

In Washington, the State Department cautiously welcomed the prospect of an end to the killing.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki:

JEN PSAKI, State Department Spokeswoman: We view this as an opportunity, not a certainty. Today’s agreement comes after many hours and days of negotiations and discussions, but, certainly, there’s a long road ahead. And we’re aware of that, and we’re going into this eyes wide open.

GWEN IFILL: Gazan officials say more than 2,100 Palestinians died during the conflict, with half-a-million displaced. On the Israeli side, 69 were killed, all but five of them soldiers.