Fragile Gaza truce holds after days of relentless strikes
A ceasefire was in effect on the Gaza Strip Sunday, drawing people back into the streets after five days of cross-border exchanges killed at least 34 Palestinians, including children.
The truce got off to a rough start after the final 30 minutes running up to the expected Saturday 10:00 pm (1900 GMT) deadline saw a volley of fire.
Egypt brokered the latest ceasefire, saying it had secured agreement from both Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.
"We want to thank Egypt for its efforts," Islamic Jihad political department official Mohammad al-Hindi told AFP. He has been in Cairo since the violence erupted on Tuesday.
For days, life in the besieged Gaza Strip has been a daily routine of air strikes and heavy bombardment.
Residents in the densely populated Gaza Strip cowered indoors as the fighting raged, with streets empty and only a few shops and pharmacies open.
"The whole Palestinian people are suffering," Muhammad Muhanna, 58, told AFP in the ruins of his home. "What have we done?"
In Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, a dead donkey lay in the ruins of a row of buildings levelled in an Israeli strike.
"No one is safe in their homes," said Imad Rayan, 64.
A spokesman for the interior ministry in Gaza said the Israeli military had concentrated on "targeting civilians, residential and civilian buildings".
There had been mounting calls for a ceasefire to be agreed, including from Israel's closest ally, the United States.
The White House welcomed the agreement and commended Egypt and Qatar's roles in defusing hostilities.
"US officials worked closely with regional partners to achieve this resolution to the hostilities to prevent further loss of life and restore calm for both Israelis and Palestinians," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Saturday.
Egypt had kept up its mediation effort despite repeated setbacks.