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Gaza Quiet After Israel, Hamas Reach Cease-Fire Extension

Photo caption:

Photo by Amir Cohen Reuters/Landov

Part of a tunnel exposed by the Israeli military is seen on the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border on Thursday, as a five-day extension of a cease-fire deal goes into effect.

So far, a five-day extension to a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas appears to be holding, NPR's Jackie Northam reports from Jerusalem.

She says "There were a few tense hours before the ... extension was announced — rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes. But it's been quiet since, as both sides prepare to return to Egyptian-brokered negotiations aimed at creating a long-term truce."

Israel said eight Hamas rockets were launched at Israel and that the Israeli Defense Forces responded with airstrikes immediately after the truce deal — which is tacked onto the end of an original 72-hour cease-fire — was announced.

In total, it represents the longest hiatus in hostilities since Israel first struck targets in the Gaza Strip last month in retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks. The fighting has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, mostly civilians and 67 Israelis, three of them soldiers.

The agreement proposed by Egypt to keep the cease-fire going until Aug. 18 sent Palestinian and Israeli negotiators back home from Cairo to consult with their leaders, Reuters says. "One Palestinian faction headed for Ramallah, the main city in the West Bank, to meet Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, while some representatives of the Islamist group Hamas flew to Qatar to see Khaled Meshaal, their leader in exile, and others returned to Gaza."

According to Reuters: "While Hamas, which controls Gaza, is likely to accede to the PA taking over administration of the Rafah border, and Israel can agree to loosen maritime restrictions and allow a freer flow of goods into Gaza, steps beyond that become trickier."

The Associated Press notes:

"Palestinian negotiators in Cairo expressed optimism that a deal to create a sustainable roadmap for the war-torn territory could soon be achieved."Hamas is seeking an end to a crippling blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007. The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people. It has also restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports."

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