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Gaza truce holds as Israel, Hamas claim 'victory'

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories -- The skies over Gaza remained calm Wednesday as a long-term cease-fire took hold, ending the deadliest violence in a decade, with Israel and Hamas both claiming 'victory' in the 50-day war.

Millions in and around the war-torn enclave enjoyed a welcome night of peace during which there were no strikes on Gaza, nor Palestinian rockets fired at Israel, the Israeli army said.

“We were able to sleep!” said a Gazan man, Alaa al-Jaro. “We had the best sleep ever after the Israeli aggression ended.”

“A cease-fire has been signed, and this time it should last, not like before,” said 16-year-old Raed Alaa Habeb from Gaza City's battered Shijaiyah neighborhood.

“We trust in this cease-fire.”

The agreement, which went into force at 1600 GMT Tuesday, saw the warring sides agree to a “permanent” cease-fire which Israel said would not be limited by time, in a move hailed by Washington, the United Nations and top world diplomats.

Both Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement, the de facto authority in Gaza, hailed the cease-fire as a victory.

But commentators took a more realistic perspective. “A draw” was the headline in Maariv newspaper.

And experts said the two sides had agreed to halt their fire out of exhaustion after seven weeks of fighting which has claimed the lives of 2,143 Palestinians and 70 on the Israeli side.

“After 50 days of fighting, the two sides were exhausted so that's why they reached a cease-fire,” Middle East expert Eyal Zisser told AFP.

Politically, Hamas had “not achieved anything” but to really weaken it, Israel would have to resume peace talks with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, he said.

Under the deal, Israel will ease restrictions on the entry of goods, humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza, and it expanded the offshore area open to Palestinian fishermen to six nautical miles.

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A Palestinian family drinks coffee amid the rubble of their destroyed home upon their return in the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanun on Wednesday, Aug. 27. (AFP)

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