A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip, appeared to hold Friday after 11 days of deadly fighting that pounded the Palestinian enclave and forced countless Israelis to seek shelter from rockets, AFP reports.
Gaza City was quiet under a cover of fluffy clouds, with only a thin column of smoke wafting into the skies after Israeli air strikes came to a halt, an AFP journalist reported.
Celebrations were heard on Gaza streets in the minutes after the truce began as cars honked their horns and some guns were fired in the air, AFP journalists reported, while in the occupied West Bank, joyful crowds also took to the streets.
With no alerts sounding in Israel to warn of incoming Hamas rockets, calm reigned across much of the Jewish state.
Residents on both sides of the conflict voiced relief that a ceasefire had taken effect.
“It’s a good decision to be honest with you because people from both sides are done with what’s going on,” said Amwrah Dana, a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem.
In Tel Aviv, Avital Fast said he wanted to be optimistic about the ceasefire. “I really hope that it will remain because the only thing that we want here is to live our life without any alarms or fire.”
The truce brokered by Egypt, that also included Gaza’s second-most powerful armed group, Islamic Jihad, was agreed following mounting international pressure to stem the bloodshed which erupted on May 10.
“This is the euphoria of victory,” said Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas figure, in front of a crowd of thousands of Palestinians who had gathered in the streets to celebrate.
“They cannot destroy the spirit of resistance in us.”— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 21, 2021
Watch as Palestinians across the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank celebrate the ceasefire that came into force in Gaza early on Friday morning. pic.twitter.com/XZA7PxJ8cT
The Israeli statement said its air campaign had made “unprecedented” achievements in Gaza, a territory it has blockaded since 2007, the year of Hamas’s takeover.
“The political leadership emphasises that it is the reality on the ground that will determine the future of the operation,” it added.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “will meet with Israeli, Palestinian and regional counterparts in the coming days to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.