A 72-hour truce, mediated by Egypt, between Israel and Hamas that began shortly after midnight today appeared to hold but the two sides seemed no closer to a settlement to end the fighting in the Gaza Strip that has left nearly 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 67 Israelis, mostly soldiers, dead.
Hamas continued to fire rockets toward Israel until the final moments before the cease-fire was due to go into effect. There were no injuries on the Israeli side. At least seven Palestinians were killed in the Israeli response.
The truce, which was agreed to on Sunday in Cairo, allowed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to leave their homes and shelters; negotiators from the two sides said they will resume talks in Cairo if the truce holds. The previous three-day cease-fire, also negotiated by Egypt, ended Tuesday when Hamas militants resumed firing rockets; Israel retaliated.
Hamas wants Israel and Egypt to end their blockade of the Gaza Strip, but Israel is reluctant to make any concessions that would make it seem Hamas has made gains. Israel considers Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, a terrorist organization.
The blockade has had a severe economic impact on Gaza and the nearly 2 million people who live in the area, which is about twice the size of the District of Columbia.
But on news of Monday's cease-fire, life appeared to return to normal in Gaza if only for a brief while. The Associated Press reports:
"On Monday morning, high school students in Gaza filed the streets as they headed off to pick up their graduation certificates after the Education Ministry said they'd be ready. People waited to buy fuel for generators as power and communication workers struggled to fix cables damaged in the fighting. Long lines formed at ATMs."
If you recall, the current fighting between the two sides began in June following the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank and the subsequent killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.