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Gaza truce holds as region steps back from brink

The Egyptian-mediated cease-fire is still in effect; Hamas calls the truce a victory, while reaction in Israel is mixed.

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Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh waves to a crowd in Gaza City at a rally celebrating the cease-fire.

Hatem Moussa/AP

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Hamas leaders in Gaza declared victory over Israel on Thursday, and thousands of flag-waving supporters rallied in celebration as the battered territory entered its first day of calm under an Egyptian-brokered truce that ended the worst cross-border fighting in four years.

Eight days of punishing Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and a barrage of Hamas rocket fire on Israeli ended inconclusively. While Israel said it inflicted heavy damage on the militants, Gaza's Hamas rulers claimed that Israel's decision not to send ground troops into the territory, as it had four years ago, was a sign of a new Hamas deterrent power.

"Resistance fighters changed the rules of the game with the occupation (Israel), upset its calculations," Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, who had attended the rally, said later in a televised speech. "The option of invading Gaza after this victory is gone and will never return."

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At the same time, Haniyeh urged Gaza fighters to respect the truce and to "guard this deal as long as Israel respects it."

The mood in Israel was mixed. Some were grateful that quiet had been restored without a ground operation that could have cost the lives of soldiers. Others — particular those in southern Israel hit by rockets over the past 13 years — thought the operation was abandoned too quickly.

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