UK & World News

  • 27 August 2014, 4:09

Israel 'To Ease Gaza Blockade' In New Ceasefire

Palestinian and Israeli leaders have agreed an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire to end the seven-week-old conflict in the Gaza Strip, officials say.

Gaza's rulers Hamas declared victory and there was celebratory gunfire in the Palestinian territory after the long-term truce came into effect.

Sirens warning of rocket attacks continued to sound in southern Israel after the ceasefire was due to begin.

The deal is aimed at halting the fighting which has resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 people since July 8.

But the terms of the deal fell far short of the militant group's demand that Israel and Egypt open Gaza's borders.

An Israeli official confirmed his country would ease its blockade of Gaza to allow humanitarian and construction materials to enter the Palestinian territory.

He said indirect talks on more complex issues would begin in the Egyptian capital Cairo within a month.

Issues were expected to include a demand by Hamas for an end to the blockade, a call to build an airport and seaport there, and Israel's demand for the group to disarm.

Earlier in the day, Hamas and another militant organisation Islamic Jihad said a deal for an "open-ended" ceasefire had been reached.

And Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said: "We announce the Palestinian leadership's agreement to Egypt's call for a comprehensive and lasting truce."

Israel had launched an air and ground offensive on Gaza to try to stop rocket fire by Hamas and other militants, and potential attacks through border tunnels.

Overnight in the Palestinian territory, several more people died and more than 20 were injured in multiple airstrikes, which followed rocket attacks from Gaza.

At least 2,138 Palestinians have been killed in the latest conflict as well as 68 Israelis, all but four of them soldiers.

Under the terms that ended more than a week of fighting in 2012, Israel promised to ease restrictions gradually, while Hamas promised to halt rocket fire from Gaza at Israel.

The truce held, but Gaza's border blockade remained largely intact.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade in 2007, after Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007.

Under the restrictions, virtually all of Gaza's 1.8 million people cannot trade or travel, and only a few thousand are able to leave the coastal territory every month.

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