GAZA CITY (Dispatches) — Palestinians rallied by the thousands Friday after a ceasefire took effect in the latest Gaza war, with many viewing it as a costly but clear victory.
The occupying regime of Israel on Thursday declared a unilateral ceasefire starting at 2 a.m. on Friday, and the Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza accepted it.
In a speech later Friday, Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh congratulated Palestinians on “this strategic, divine” victory, which was achieved by the “courageous” resistance forces.
He said Gaza had stood up for Jerusalem Al-Quds and defended Al-Aqsa Mosque, adding Israel had been dealt heavy blows.
Haniyeh also thanked Iran for its financial and military support for the Palestinian resistance forces in Gaza.
The 11-day war left more than 250 dead — the vast majority Palestinians — and brought widespread devastation to the already impoverished Gaza Strip. But the rocket barrages that brought life to a standstill in much of Occupied Palestine were seen around the world as a bold response to Zionist abuses in Jerusalem Al-Quds, the emotional heart of the conflict.
The Gaza Health Ministry says at least 243 Palestinians were martyred, including 66 children, with 1,910 people wounded. Twelve people were killed in Occupied Palestine in retaliatory attacks.
The truce faced an early test when clashes broke out between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police following Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem Al-Quds extremely sacred to Muslims. Israeli violence there earlier this month was one of the main triggers for the war.
It was unclear what sparked Friday’s violence. Zionist forces fired stun grenades and tear gas, and Palestinians hurled rocks after hundreds took part in a celebratory demonstration in which they waved Palestinian flags and cheered resistance groups. Israeli police said they arrested 16 people.
Protesters also clashed with Zionist troops in parts of the occupied West Bank, which has seen angry demonstrations in recent days linked to Jerusalem Al-Quds and Gaza.
Thousands took to the streets of Gaza as the ceasefire took hold at 2 a.m. Young men waved Palestinian and resistance flags, passed out sweets, honked horns and set off fireworks. Celebrations also broke out overnight in East Al-Quds and across the occupied West Bank.
An open-air market in Gaza City that was closed throughout the war reopened, and shoppers stocked up on fresh tomatoes, cabbage and watermelons. Workers in orange traffic vests swept up rubble from surrounding roads.
“Life will return, because this is not the first war, and it will not be the last war,” said shop owner Ashraf Abu Muhammad. “The heart is in pain, there have been disasters, families wiped from the civil registry, and this saddens us. But this is our fate in this land, to remain patient.”
In the hard-hit northern town of Beit Hanoun, rescue workers were still recovering bodies from areas that had been too dangerous to enter.
Five were collected Friday in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, including that of a 3-year-old, the Red Crescent emergency service said.
Hamas and other resistance groups fired over 4,000 rockets at Zionist targets. Dozens landed as far north as the bustling commercial capital of Tel Aviv.
Abu Hamza, a spokesman for Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, stressed that the Palestinians have been able to put the Zionist regime in an “unprecedented existential, historic trouble.”
“We managed to restrain the enemy and his herds of settlers,” he said in a press conference.
The spokesman also lauded Iran and the resistance front for enhancing the financial and technical capabilities of the Palestinian resistance factions, saying, “You are partners in our victory.”
He said the weapons used by the resistance forces against Israel during the latest confrontation were “little” compared to what they have prepared, adding that they would continue the path of resistance until the full liberation of the occupied Palestinian territories.
In a commentary, the Times of Israel wrote Friday that the Palestinian resistance in Gaza has turned into “a military monster which now aspires to compete with Hezbollah and is managing to embarrass Israel time after time”.
Netanyahu faced heavy criticism from members of his hawkish, nationalist base. Gideon Saar, a former ally who leads a small party opposed to the prime minister, called the ceasefire “embarrassing.”
“With the best intelligence and air force in the world, Netanyahu managed to extract from Hamas an ‘unconditional ceasefire’ — embarrassing,” Sa’ar tweeted.
Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the far-right Jewish Power party, tweeted that the ceasefire was “a grave surrender”.
In a potentially damaging development for the Israeli leader, the Palestinian resistance said prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to halt further Israeli actions at the Al Aqsa Mosque and to call off the planned evictions of Palestinians in the nearby Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
U.S. President Joe Biden said he spoke to Netanyahu after the ceasefire was announced, reassuring the Zionist premier that Washington fully supports Tel Aviv against the Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza.
Biden said he assured Netanyahu that the U.S. will replenish its Iron Dome missile supply in the future.
Despite the Zionist regime’s efforts to portray Iron Dome as effective, the system failed to intercept hundreds of improved rockets fired by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad from Gaza, with the Associated Press reporting that its interception rate had apparently declined.