Israel, Hamas Truce Holding as Gaza Border Blockade Eased

(Photo: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)A Palestinian boy looks out of his damaged house after a ceasefire was declared, in the east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip August 27, 2014. The open-ended ceasefire in the Gaza war between Israel and the Palestinians held on Wednesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced strong criticism in his country's newspapers over a campaign in which no clear victor emerged.

Israel and militant group Hamas have agreed to a long-term ceasefire in the Gaza Strip aimed at ending the conflict that has killed over 2,200 people. Israel has agreed to ease its economic blockade of Gaza, while Hamas has said it will stop firing rockets into Israeli territory.

The Associated Press reported that the truce was holding as of Wednesday. The open-ended deal was brokered by Egypt, with hopes it will stop the fighting, which besides the heavy death toll, has led to widespread destruction in Gaza.

"Israel has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a complete and unlimited-in-time ceasefire. Israel accepted already the Egyptian proposal on July 15. Israel has always supported an unconditional, open-ended ceasefire," an Israeli government official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas affirmed the lasting deal on Tuesday, which reportedly lifts some, but not all economic restrictions from the Gaza strip.

"We announce the Palestinian leadership's agreement to Egypt's call for a comprehensive and lasting truce, beginning at 7pm (4pm GMT) today," Abbas said in a televised statement.

Several ceasefires had been agreed to before but collapsed after rockets resumed; the last 10-day ceasefire ended a week ago after Hamas fired rockets at Israel, prompting Israel to retaliate with air strikes.

Israel had launched ground operations into Gaza aimed at countering terror tunnels it said allowed militants to carry out attacks into its territory. It has blamed the Palestinian militant group for the high death toll, accusing Hamas fighters of hiding in residential areas from where they launch their operations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Hamas of using civilians as "human shields" in the conflict, and had said that Israel was determined to complete its mission.

"We will not finish the mission, we will not finish the operation without neutralizing the tunnels, which have the sole purpose of destroying our citizens, killing our children," Netanyahu said in July.

"We need to be prepared for a protracted campaign. We will continue to act with force and discretion until our mission is accomplished."

The Palestinian militant group has meanwhile demanded that the economic blockade be lifted from the Gaza strip, which it says had made life extremely difficult for people.

Dr. Munir S. Kakish, Chairman Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land, told The Christian Post in an interview in July that Hamas would indeed be willing to welcome a ceasefire if the blockade was lifted.

"They want a meaningful ceasefire to end the seven years of blockade and travel restrictions that make Gaza one large prison. They want a deal to make life livable," Kakish told CP. "The West did not address the problems in the Gaza strip. The blockade, travel restrictions, economic disaster, lack of any healthcare have all created a condition where life is not acceptable."

Warning sirens continued to sound in southern Israel overnight after the ceasefire was agreed, but there were no reports of fresh attacks.

The easing of the blockade will allow humanitarian efforts and construction materials to enter the Palestinian territory, while further talks are expected to begin in Cairo in September.

The last long-term truce in Gaza ended more than a week of fighting back in 2012, again with Hamas' promise to stop rocket fire into Israel, while the Jewish state promised to gradually ease economic restrictions.