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Israel ends deadly Gaza assault after Egypt brokers ceasefire

Nov. 21, 2012 10:53 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 23, 2012 12:19 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli military stopped firing on the Gaza Strip after 9 p.m. Wednesday in line with an agreement with Hamas and announced by Egypt hours earlier.

Both sides said they were sticking to the terms of the deal although 12 rockets were fired at Israel after 9 p.m. and Israeli airstrikes killed two Palestinians after the deal was announced.

Eight days of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza killed at least 170 Palestinians since the army assassinated a senior Hamas military official last Wednesday. Palestinian armed groups responded with rockets that killed five Israelis and reached further than ever before outside of Gaza.

Egypt’s foreign minister announced the ceasefire during a news conference in Cairo with the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who praised Egypt's role.

Mohamed Kamel Amr said the ceasefire would come into effect at 9 p.m.

"These efforts ... have resulted in understandings to cease fire and restore calm and halt the bloodshed that the last period has seen," Amr said.

Clinton lauded Egypt and said it was “playing a leading role” in the region, and the thanked Egypt’s president, Muhammad Mursi, for his efforts to broker an agreement.

After the ceasefire appeared to take hold, Palestinians took to the streets to celebrate what they called a victory over Israel, which will ease its siege of Gaza in line with the deal.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said the deal to end fighting stipulates that all of the territory's crossings must be opened, disputing what he described as Israeli assertions to the contrary.

"The (ceasefire) document stipulates the opening of the crossings, all the crossings, and not just Rafah," Meshaal told a news conference in Cairo.

Israel controls all of Gaza's crossings apart from the Rafah border with Egypt.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that if the Egyptian-brokered truce did not work Israel would consider "more severe military action" against Gaza.

"I know there are citizens expecting a more severe military action, and perhaps we shall need to do so," Netanyahu told a news conference.

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