Israel and Hamas are both claiming victory in the 50-day Gaza war as a new cease-fire took hold Wednesday.
Liran Dan, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that tunnels used by the Hamas militants to sneak into Israel for attacks had been destroyed. And he said Hamas, which controls Gaza, failed in its effort to end a blockade of the Palestinian enclave along the Mediterranean and to open a seaport and airport for the war-ravaged territory.
Hamas said it killed 64 Israeli soldiers during the conflict, the Jewish state's heaviest military loss since 2006. Five civilians also died. Israeli airstrikes into Gaza killed more than 2,100 Palestinians – mostly civilians, but also key Hamas leaders.
Other analysts offered a measured view of the outcome. A headline in the Israeli newspaper Maariv called it "A draw." Others said the warring sides agreed Tuesday to the open-ended cease-fire because they were exhausted by the fighting.
Since the conflict began July 8, Hamas launched hundreds of missiles into Israel and the Israeli forces bombarded Gaza with massive airstrikes that left many neighborhoods in towering piles of concrete rubble.
But the key demands by the two sides were left unresolved, subject to further negotiations at Egypt-sponsored talks in Cairo in the coming weeks. Israel is demanding that Hamas be disarmed, while the Palestinians want an end to the extensive Israeli blockade of Gaza and the opening of the seaport and airport.
As part of the cease-fire, Israel agreed to allow humanitarian aid and construction materials into Gaza, to assist its recovery, and to widen the territory's offshore fishing zone.
Calm descends, stores reopen
The skies over Gaza were quiet Wednesday, with the Israeli military reporting no rocket attacks from Gaza and no airstrikes by its forces on the Palestinian territory. Shops reopened, farmers returned to their fields near the Israeli border and a sense of normalcy took hold as thousands of Gaza residents gathered their belongings at United Nations shelters and returned to their neighborhoods.
One Gaza shop owner, Ahmed Kharwat, said the coming negotiations must bring a lasting peace.
"We don't want to go through war every year or two, or even four," Kharwat said. "They need to find a real solution so that we can live and work. As you see, after we rebuilt, war came. Two years later, everything is destroyed again."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon both welcomed the cease-fire and expressed hope that Israel and the Palestinians can move toward making progress on a wider peace effort.