Gaza and Israel begin to resume normal life after truce

Gaza residents have returned to the streets following Wednesday's truce

People in Gaza and southern Israel are starting to return to normal life following Wednesday's ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

A number of rockets were fired from Gaza in the first few hours of the truce, but Israel did not respond.

Israeli schools close to the Gaza Strip were shut on Thursday as a precaution.

Israel also said it had arrested a man on suspicion of carrying out a bus bombing in Tel Aviv on Wednesday that injured some 15 passengers.

Overnight, Israeli security forces also arrested 55 people in the West Bank who it said were "terror operatives".

'New start'

Israel launched an offensive against Gaza, which it says was aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza, with the killing of a Hamas military leader last week.

The UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says provisional figures reported to it from Gaza say that 158 people were killed there in the offensive. The figures showed 103 were civilians, including at least 30 children and 13 women. The OCHA will now investigate the figures.

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History shows that a ceasefire that does not buy time for a political process to address the festering problems will not last”

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On Thursday, an Israeli soldier injured in a mortar attack a day earlier died of his wounds, bringing the Israeli death toll to six - two soldiers and four civilians.

The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement came into force at 21:00 (19:00 GMT) on Wednesday evening.

The Israeli military said three rockets were fired from Gaza shortly after that, one of which was shot down by the Iron Dome defence system. It said there had been no fire in either direction since midnight.

Under the truce deal, Israel has agreed to end all hostilities and targeted killings of militants, while all Palestinian factions will have to stop firing rockets into Israel and staging border attacks.

Israel must also begin talks about opening Gaza's border crossings and easing restrictions on the movement of people and goods.

The BBC's Jon Donnison in Gaza City says the city was transformed overnight, as people who had spent days sheltering from air strikes and shelling flooded into the streets, some of them firing weapons into the air in celebration.

Hamas declared Thursday a public holiday to mark what it called a victory over Israel.

Ceasefire deal

  • Israel to end all hostilities on Gaza Strip by sea, land and air, including incursions and the targeting of individuals
  • All Palestinian factions in Gaza to stop all hostilities against Israel, including rocket and border attacks
  • After 24 hours from start of ceasefire, talks to begin on opening crossings into Gaza and allowing free movement of people and goods
  • Egypt to receive assurances from both sides that they will abide by the deal, and will follow up any reports its has been broken

Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniya told a large rally in Gaza City: "The option of invading Gaza after this victory is gone and will never return."

However, he also urged militants to respect the truce.

There were traffic jams on the streets, shops opened for business and queues formed at banks and cash machines. Cleaning and repair work was also being carried out on the many buildings damaged by air strikes.

"The situation is very good today, we've returned back to work as normal," vegetable stall owner Hani Hamadeh told Reuters.

Ashraf Diaa, an engineer from Gaza City, told Associated Press: "Today is different, the morning coffee tastes different and I feel we are off to a new start."

The BBC's Ben Brown, in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, says the mood on that side of the border was more subdued; he says one television opinion poll suggests 70% of Israelis were against the ceasefire.

Both sides have said they will retaliate if the other breaks the truce.

"If Israel complies, we are compliant. If it does not comply, our hands are on the trigger," said Hamas's exiled leader, Khaled Meshaal, at a news conference in Cairo.

Israel's military has begun its withdrawal from the Gaza border

Israeli media quoted Defence Minister Ehud Barak as saying that the truce was not a formal agreement but a set of understandings.

It "could last nine days or nine weeks or more but if it doesn't hold, we know what to do and of course, we will consider the possibility of resuming our activity if there is any firing or provocations", he told Israeli public radio.

Israel's armed forces chief of staff, Lt Gen Benny Gantz, said the campaign had "hit Hamas hard" and had "accomplished its purposes and goals".

Israeli military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said on Thursday that the Tel Aviv bus bomb suspect had been arrested and was "an Arab-Israeli from Taybe and a member of Hamas".

Israel's separate arrests in the West Bank followed a series of angry protests over Israel's operation in Gaza. Two protesters were killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers.

Girls in a UN school

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the arrested people were all affiliated with terror groups and included a number of "senior level operatives".

The arrests, including 13 in Hebron, were part of efforts to "restore calm" to the area, said the IDF.

In its first statement since the current flare-up began, the UN Security Council on Wednesday called on Israel and Hamas to uphold the agreement, and commended Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi and others involved in the diplomatic effort.

Israel says it targeted 1,500 "terror sites" during what it termed Operation Pillar of Defence, including 30 senior militants, 980 underground rocket launchers and 140 smuggling tunnels.

The IDF said that, for the first time, militants in Gaza had fired long-range rockets, such as the Fajr-5, toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

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