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AKIPRESS.COM - A ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians aimed at ending their seven-week conflict in Gaza appeared to be holding early on Wednesday as the focus shifted to securing an arrangement for the long term, Reuters said.
No clear victor emerged from what had become a war of attrition between the Middle East's most powerful armed forces and the dominant Hamas militant movement in the Gaza Strip.
Exacting a heavy toll in Palestinian lives and property, Israel said it dealt a strong blow to Hamas, killing several of its military leaders and destroying the group's cross-border infiltration tunnels.
But Israel also faced persistent rocket fire for nearly two months that caused an exodus from a number of border communities and became part of daily life in its commercial heartland.
Palestinian and Egyptian officials said the deal, which was mediated in Cairo and took effect on Tuesday evening, called for an indefinite halt to hostilities, the immediate opening of Gaza's blockaded crossings with Israel and Egypt and a widening of the territory's fishing zone in the Mediterranean.
A senior official of the Islamist group Hamas, which runs Gaza, voiced willingness for the security forces of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the unity government he formed in June to control the passage points.
Both Israel and Egypt view Hamas as a security threat and are seeking guarantees that weapons will not enter the territory of 1.8 million people.
Under a second stage of the truce that would begin a month later, Israel and the Palestinians would discuss the construction of a Gaza sea port and Israel's release of Hamas prisoners in the occupied West Bank, possibly in a trade for body parts of two Israeli soldiers believed held by Hamas, the officials said.