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Ceasefire Reached in Gaza After 50 Days of War and Catastrophic Damage

A view of Gaza at the same of the ceasefire, taken by Dan Cohen

A view of Gaza at the time of the ceasefire, taken by Dan Cohen

On August 26, Israel and the Palestinian factions agreed to halt fighting indefinitely, putting an end to seven weeks of catastrophic destruction and loss of life in Gaza. 

At least 2,137 Palestinians were killed, including 577 children, and 10,870 wounded, since Israel launched a massive offensive called Protective Edge against the 40-kilometer-long coastal strip on July 8. 

This was Israel's third military operation in Gaza in the last six years. Excessive restrictions from Israel in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank aggravate conditions in areas that most of the world and the United Nations considers occupied by Israel.

Seventy-two percent of Palestinians killed in this offensive were civilians, according to the UNAbout a third of the wounded children, will be forced to live with permanent disabilities. One-third of Gaza's total population, over 520,000 people, have been displaced of whom 279,389 were taking shelter in 83 UN-run schools.

The deal

Hamas and Islamic Jihad – the main Palestinian militant groups involved in this conflict and Israel agreed to an Egyptian-brokered peace deal , which seems similar to the one reached in 2012 after Israel's “Operation Returning Echo”. Mahmoud Abbas also took part in the deal, his Palestinian Authority (PA) has been exclusively governing the West Bank since Hamas won elections in Gaza in 2007.

The immediate demands of the peace deal include: the end of hostilities on both sides; opening of the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza; handing over administration of Gaza's borders from Hamas to the PA, reconstruction of Gaza in coordination with the PA and international donors, including the EU; narrowing the security barrier along the inside of the Gaza border from 300 to 100m, easing restrictions on fishing in Gaza from 3 miles (4.8km) to 6 miles (9.6km). The international allowance is 12 miles (19.3 km.)

The long-term demands to be negotiated are: the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners kidnapped by Israel in June after the killing of three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank; the release of long-serving Palestinian prisoners as demanded by the Palestinian Authority; Israel wants all body parts and personal effects of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza; Hamas wants a sea port built in Gaza in order to allow goods and people to move freely; Hamas wants the un-freezing of funds to allow it to pay 40,000 police, government workers and other administrative staff who haven't had any salary since last year; Palestinians are asking for Gaza's airport, built in 1998 and destroyed in 2000 by Israel, to be rebuilt.

In Gaza, reactions to the ceasefire were divided. While everyone rejoiced the end of the war, bloggers, activists and journalists on the ground, as well as ordinary Gazans, opted for mourning the dead and wondering what's next.

Gazan journalist Lara Abu Ramadan tweeted:

Gazan activists Haneen El Qadi, Omar Ghreib, and ‘WhateverInGaza‘ shared her sadness:

Some wondered if the agreement reached was fair to Gazans

Catastrophic damage in Gaza

Since July 8, Gaza has been hit 59,973 times — 7,690 by air, 15,673 from the sea and 36,610 on the ground. The Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights reports that the total number of houses demolished or damaged in the 51 days of war exceeds 15,671, with 2,276 fully destroyed. They estimate the economic loss to Gaza from the Israeli assault to be $3.4 billion.

This infographic by the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights helps understand the scale of the devastation in this conflict:

Infographic done by the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights

Infographic done by the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights

Homeless in Gaza

Speaking for the tens of thousands of refugees in Gaza, Chris Gunness, a Spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) released a video of the destruction and tweeted the following:

The death toll for Israel stood at 68, including one child. The percentage of Israeli civilians killed is 4 percent, with 96% of deaths being IDF soldiers. Four hundred and fifty soldiers and 80 civilians were also wounded. Between 5,000 and 8,000 Israelis living in the south fled the fighting.

Also see our in-depth 2014 coverage on war-battered Gaza. 

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