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Israel, Hamas cease-fire ends week of fighting

Egyptian-backed peace deal to end fighting between Israel, Hamas in Gaza.

The week-long conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has transitioned into the early stages of an Egyptian-backed cease-fire.

The Associated Press, quoting a Palestinian official, said the deal was to take effect at 9 p.m. local time, or 2 p.m. ET. At 9:20 p.m., GlobalPost's correspondent in Gaza, Erin Cunningham, said the peace was appearing to hold.

Many had been skeptical the cease-fire would even get off the ground, with heavy fire continuing up until the 9 p.m. deadline.

"Six strikes in last 12 minutes of war. Unclear what the targets are. We tried to get to the hospital for the Hamas press conference but ... F16 sent us back in. Waiters at hotel restaurant are laughing and saying 'just wait five minutes.' But it's down to the wire," Cunningham wrote.

Minutes later, she reported: "Celebratory gunfire on the streets of Gaza. Twenty minutes in, and it looks like the cease-fire is happening. Two Palestinian journalists at our hotel embrace in celebration," she wrote, adding that Gaza City, with the power out, was otherwise dark.

"The waiter at our hotel bought a bag of candy he passed out to all the journalists. The Palestinian cellphone carrier, Jawwal, sent out 10NIS of free phone credit to a number of phones (including mine), in celebration of the ceasefire. The message said 'Gaza is always in our hearts,'" Cunningham wrote.

The AP reported earlier that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the deal after consulting with US President Barack Obama.

Israel is expected to halt its attacks on Gaza’s Palestinian population while Hamas will stop sending rockets into Israel, the AP said.

After a day of peace, borders would reopen to allow goods and people to move more freely again.

More from GlobalPost: Brokering peace full-time job for Egypt

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egypt's Foreign Minister Kamel Amr announced the cease-fire at a news conference in Cairo today, the BBC reported.

GlobalPost's Israel correspondent commented:

Netanyahu agreed with Obama, whose "suggestion to give a chance to Egypt's proposal for a cease-fire and so give an opportunity to stabilize the situation and calm it before there will be need to apply greater force," the BBC said.

Clinton said that "rocket attacks [from Gaza] must end and a broader calm must return." 

"Now we have to focus on reaching a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security, dignity and legitimate aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis alike," Clinton said, according to BBC.

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

Fighting broke out last Wednesday when Israel killed Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari in an airstrike, CNN said.

Called Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel said the airstrikes were in retaliation for increased rocket attacks from Gaza.

A bomb explosion that injured 24 people today in Tel Aviv appeared to have threatened the deal.

An estimated 160 people have died since fighting began last week.

More from GlobalPost: Tel Aviv bus bombing adds to Israel, Hamas conflict

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/121121/israel-hamas-cease-fire-end-week-fight