Palestinians who had spent 11 days huddled in fear of Israeli shelling poured into Gaza’s streets, embracing one another in celebration in front of bombed-out buildings and along streets covered in wreckage.
Palestinians rallied by the thousands early Friday after a cease-fire took effect in the latest Gaza war, with many viewing it as a costly but clear victory for the Islamic militant group Hamas over a far more powerful Israel.
The ceasefire brokered by Egypt, which also included Gaza’s second-most powerful armed group, Islamic Jihad, was agreed on Thursday evening and came into force on Friday after international pressure to stem the bloodshed which erupted earlier this month.
Israeli strikes on Gaza since May 10 have killed 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, as well as fighters, and have wounded another 1,900, according to the Gaza health ministry.
Mosque loudspeakers feted “the victory of the resistance achieved over the Occupation (Israel).” Cars driving around East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah at dawn flew Palestinian flags and honked horns, echoing the scenes in Gaza.
The truce faces an early test on Friday when tens of thousands of Palestinians attend weekly prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, a flashpoint holy site revered by Jews and Muslims. Celebratory protests could spark confrontations with Israeli police, setting in motion another cycle of escalation like the one that led to the war.
“This is the euphoria of victory,” said Khalil al-Hayya, the second most senior member of the Islamist movement’s political bureau in the Gaza Strip. He also promised to reconstruct homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes.