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Cease-fire holding

… but doubts over how long truce will last

GAZA/JERUSALEM — A cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers took hold today after eight days of conflict, although deep mistrust on both sides cast doubt on how long the Egyptian-sponsored deal can last.

Quiet reigned on both sides of the frontier overnight and during the morning after a dozen rockets landed in Israel in the initial hours after the truce came into force late yesterday. Israeli police said there had been no casualties or damage.

The deal brokered by Egypt’s new Islamist government, working with the United States, prevented – at least for the moment – an Israeli invasion of the Palestinian enclave.

Gaza medical officials said 162 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, including 37 children and 11 women, were killed. Nearly 1,400 rockets were fired into Israel, killing four civilians and a soldier, the Israeli military said.

Israel’s defence minister said Israel dropped 1,000 times as much explosive on the Gaza Strip as had landed in Israel.

Municipal workers in Gaza began cleaning streets and removing the rubble of buildings bombed in Israel’s air strikes. Stores opened and people flocked to markets to buy food.

“Israel learnt a lesson it will never forget,” said 51-year-old Khalil al-Rass from Beach refugee camp in the city of Gaza.

In rocket-hit towns in southern Israel, schools remained closed as a precaution. Nerves were jangled when warning sirens sounded, in what the military quickly said was a false alarm.

Trust was in short supply. The exile leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, said his Islamist movement would respect the truce if Israel did, but would respond to any violations.

“If Israel complies, we are compliant. If it does not comply, our hands are on the trigger,” he told a news conference in Cairo. (Reuters)

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