Israel, Hamas Agree to Gaza Cease-fire
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israel and the Hamas militant group agreed to a cease-fire Wednesday to end eight days of the fiercest fighting in nearly four years, promising to halt air strikes and rocket attacks that have killed scores and to discuss easing an Israeli blockade constricting the Gaza Strip.
Gazans emerged from their homes after a week, cheering and chanting. Gunmen fired in the air, and chants of "God is Great" echoed from mosque loudspeakers. Residents hugged and kissed in celebration, while others distributed candy and waved Hamas flags.
However, rocket fire continued to slam into southern Israel long after the cease-fire deadline had passed, authorities said, and schools in the region planned to stay shut Thursday as a precaution in case rockets continue to be launched.
The deal was brokered by the new Islamist government of Egypt, solidifying its role as a leader in the quickly shifting Middle East after two days of intense shuttle diplomacy that saw U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton race to the region. Under the agreement, Egypt will play a key role in maintaining the peace.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said the deal included an agreement to open all border crossings with the Gaza Strip, including the important Rafah crossing with Egypt. A copy of the deal obtained by The Associated Press appeared to be somewhat vague about the details on the crossings.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he agreed to the cease-fire after consulting with President Barack Obama to allow Israeli civilians to get back to their lives. He said the two leaders also agreed to work together against weapon smuggling into Gaza, a statement confirmed by the White House. Netanyahu also left the door open to a possible ground invasion of Gaza at a later date.
Hamas officials said details on the new border arrangements would have to be negotiated.
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