Israel Exits Gaza; Truce Takes Hold

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from The New York Times,

As a 72-hour cease-fire mediated by Egypt took hold on Tuesday, Gazans emerged to view a shattered landscape with Hamas still in power, while Israel began to debate the politics, costs and accomplishments of the monthlong war.

Israel announced the withdrawal of all its forces from the Gaza Strip, and both sides said they would engage in talks on a lasting arrangement to keep the peace. But the negotiations, also to be mediated by Egypt, are bound to be tricky, given the participants’ antagonisms and sharply different goals. Israeli officials emphasized that their army, navy and air force remained deployed near Gaza, primed to respond to any attacks from the coastal territory.

Since the conflict began in earnest on July 8, Gaza officials say that more than 1,830 Palestinians have died, most of them civilians. Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

People on both sides are wondering if the death and destruction was worth what is essentially another stalemate between Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamic group that governs Gaza, and its ally Islamic Jihad. The cease-fire plan accepted late Monday is essentially the same one that Hamas rejected three weeks ago, before Israel moved into Gaza with ground troops.

“We lost in one instant all we had worked for 40 years to build,” said Fouad Harara, 55, who had worked for decades as a laborer in Israel. “The only thing we gained is destruction.”

After being nearly invisible to most Gazans throughout the war, Hamas police officers emerged in some areas, patrolling in blue and white trucks and inspecting damaged neighborhoods.

New billboards had been put up recently in Gaza City, one of them showing a group of fighters and a tunnel with the words “The Tunnels of Glory” and “Passages to Arrive in Jerusalem.”

Hamas’s Al Aqsa radio station alternated between triumphant jihadi anthems and talk shows about how “the resistance” had vanquished the “Zionist enemy” with its rockets, forcing it to withdraw from Gaza.

Hamas has been hurt, but it has survived and has earned respect among many Palestinians and other Arabs. That has infuriated some on the Israeli right, who blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for lacking gumption. Uzi Landau, for example, the tourism minister from the party Yisrael Beiteinu, told Israel Radio, “The operation ended with no achievement that ensures quiet.”

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