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May 23, 2017

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Gaza falls silent as three-day cease-fire breaks cycle of violence

JERUSALEM -- Gaza fell silent Tuesday after a month of intense combat between Israel and Hamas, as a 72-hour truce came into effect and the last troops left the battered enclave.

The firing finally stopped after 29 days of bitter and bloody fighting, bringing relief to millions on both sides of the border and halting the soaring death toll in Gaza where at least 1,867 people have died.

But with the relief there was no small amount of skepticism.

"You know, we're just hours from the time the cease-fire started. Let's see if it is actually kept," said Orly Doron, an Israeli mother living in a kibbutz on the Gaza border that has been battered by rocket fire.

"We had three or four cease-fires during this war; we all saw they weren't kept."

Just minutes before the truce took hold, both Israel and Hamas engaged in a display of firepower, seemingly determined to have the last word before downing their weapons.

Sirens wailed in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as Hamas fired 16 rockets over the border, while Israeli warplanes staged at least five air strikes on Gaza.

Israel also said all of its troops had withdrawn from Gaza, ending a ground operation that began on July 17.

"All of them have left," General Moti Almoz told army radio.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said troops would be "deployed in defensive positions" outside of Gaza and would respond to any violation of the truce, announced by Egypt late Monday.

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