GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Gaza residents cleared rubble and claimed victory on Thursday, just hours after an Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers ended the worst cross-border fighting in four years.
The cease-fire announcement had set off frenzied late night street celebrations in the coastal strip, and raised hopes of a new era in relations between Israel and Hamas. The two sides are now to negotiate a deal that would open the borders of the blockaded Palestinian territory.
"Today is different, the morning coffee tastes different and I feel we are off to a new start," said Ashraf Diaa, a 38-year-old engineer from Gaza City.
However, the vague language in the agreement and deep hostility between the combatants made it far from certain that the bloodshed would end.
Israel launched the offensive on Nov. 14 to halt renewed rocket fire from Gaza, unleashing some 1,500 airstrikes on Hamas-linked targets, while Hamas and other Gaza militant groups showered Israel with hundreds of rockets.
It was the worst fighting since an Israeli invasion of Gaza four years ago.
The eight days of relentless strikes killed 161 Palestinians, including 71 civilians, and five Israelis. Israel also destroyed key symbols of Hamas power, such as the prime minister's office, along with rocket launching sites and Gaza police stations.
Despite the high human cost, Hamas claimed victory Thursday.
"The masses that took to the streets last night to celebrate sent a message to all the world that Gaza can't be defeated," said a spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri.
While it is far from certain that Hamas will be able to pry open Gaza's borders in upcoming talks, the latest round of fighting has brought the Islamists unprecedented political recognition in the region. During the past week, Gaza became a magnet for visiting foreign ministers from Turkey and several Arab states — a sharp contrast to Hamas' isolation in the past.
Israel and the United States, even while formally sticking to a policy of shunning Hamas, also acknowledged the militant group's central role by engaging in indirect negotiations with the Islamists. Israel and the West consider Hamas, which seized Gaza by force in 2007, to be a terrorist organization.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, defended his decision not to launch a ground offensive, in contrast to Israel's invasion of Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009.
"You don't get into military adventures on a whim, and certainly not based on the mood of the public, which can turn the first time an armored personnel carrier rolls over or an explosive device is detonated against forces on the ground," he told Israel Army Radio.
"The world's mood also can turn," he said, referring to warnings by the U.S. and Israel's other Western allies of the high cost of a ground offensive.
However, with the cease-fire just a few hours old, Israel was not rushing to bring home all of the thousands of reservists it had ordered to the Gaza border in the event of a ground invasion, Barak said.
Barak was defense minister during Israel's previous major military campaign against Hamas, which drew widespread international criticism and claims of war crimes.
The mood in Israel was mixed, with some grateful that quiet had been restored without a ground operation that could have cost the lives of soldiers.
Others — particular those in southern Israel who have endured 13 years of rocket fire — thought the operation was abandoned too quickly and without guaranteeing their security.
Associated Press writer Amy Teibel in Jerusalem contributed reporting.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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