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Israel, Hamas Agree To Long-Term Cease-Fire


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm David Greene. Residents of Gaza and Israel awoke to a very unfamiliar sound today. It was the sound of silence. The wail of sirens warning of incoming rockets, the crash of missiles hitting buildings it's over - at least for now. An indefinite truce brokered by Egypt went into force last night. Israel and Hamas agreed to put a complete stop to the fighting. This ends a devastating seven-week war that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 69 Israelis. We're joined now from Gaza City by NPR's Philip Reeves. Phil, good morning.


GREENE: So what is the scene like? Can you tell there's a different feel here?

REEVES: Oh, yes. The mood has changed. As you know, Gaza's beside the Mediterranean and I'm actually by the beach. And it's been pretty much deserted in the last days of conflict, but this morning, you know, under a cloudless, blue sky kids are cavorting in the waves, Boats are going out fishing, a guy came down to the beach with his horse to give it a wash. Last night Palestinians when they learned about the cease-fire started firing their guns in the air in celebration. This morning after, you know, 50 days it's caused so much devastation - euphoria I think has been replaced by a general sense of relief.

GREENE: Well, what exactly changed to make both sides agree to stop the fighting indefinitely here?

REEVES: It's hard to know precisely, but I do know that there has been a war weariness that's set in on both sides. And I think also an awareness that this fighting wasn't going to take them any further in achieving their goals.

GREENE: We talk about goals. I mean, both sides are at least publicly claiming some sort of victory here. Is there any objective way to tell who achieved their goals, who won in a sense?

REEVES: Well, it really looks as if no one won. I mean, one writer in Israel's Haaretz Newspaper this morning describes it rather memorably as a doleful tie. Both sides of course are claiming gains. Israel can point to the fact that Hamas's arsenal of rockets and mortars is severely depleted. The militants have fired 4,500 of these over the last seven weeks. Israel has also killed some key Hamas commanders and disrupted the militants' infrastructure - especially their network of tunnels. So it's much harder for Hamas to infiltrate Israel to carry out attacks. And Hamas is, as it did last time in 2012, declaring victory. Its logic for this is that Gaza stood up against the might of the Israeli military. It drew world attention to the Palestinian cause and it proved its rockets can even disrupt Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv. And above all it didn't surrender.

GREENE: And I guess the conversation going forward part of it will be was it worth the sacrifice on both sides? Because there's was a tremendous loss on both sides of this conflict.

REEVES: Yes, there definitely was. I mean, 50 days caused so much devastation. In Gaza thousands of homes are destroyed - and schools, factories, mosques, apartment blocks, utilities. More than a quarter of the population has been displaced. And of course Israelis in the south of Israel that have been living under the threat of rocket attack. They've had to get into their shelters. There's been economic damage. And, you know, just before the cease-fire came into force two Israelis in a Kubur (ph) were killed by mortar attack from Gaza. And there's political fallout, too. I mean, Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is now facing opposition from the right-wing who say he should have done more to destroy Hamas.

GREENE: Which makes you wonder, I mean, what Netanyahu now can do in dealing with Hamas as we go forward. I mean, if the cease-fire does hold what are the next steps in actually resolving the larger issues here?

REEVES: Well, the really tough issues are going to be discussed in a month. That's part of this agreement that was brokered by Egypt. These include demands by the Palestinians for an air and sea port. Israel's very concerned that these could be used for weapons smuggling. Israel wants Hamas to be disarmed. The chances of that happening are nil. And there are other issues, too, like the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and the return from Gaza of the remains of two Israeli soldiers and unfreezing Palestinian funds also. But as for the really core issues, the Palestinian aspirations for statehood settling that seems as distant a prospect as ever.

GREENE: Alright, NPR's Philip Reeves joining us from Gaza City. Phil, thanks very much.

REEVES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.