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Cease-fire reached

Israel and Hamas agreed Tuesday to an open-ended cease-fire, halting a seven-week war that killed more than 2,200 people, the vast majority Palestinians, left tens of thousands in Gaza homeless and devastated entire neighbourhoods in the blockaded territory.

Hamas declared victory and bursts of celebratory gunfire erupted across Gaza, but the terms of the deal fell far short of Hamas' demand that Israel and Egypt open Gaza's borders.

Under the Egyptian-brokered deal, Israel is to ease imports into Gaza, including aid and material for reconstruction. It also allows Palestinians to fish six nautical miles offshore, up from three nautical miles.

In a month, the cease-fire calls for talks to begin in Cairo on more complex issues, including building a seaport and airport in Gaza, and Israel's demand that Hamas disarm.

However, the agreement appeared to contain no major Israeli concessions and previous understandings after a round of fighting in 2012 quickly dissipated.

Previous cease-fire deals have collapsed since the war began July 8, and it was not clear if this one would hold. The truce took effect at 7 p.m. local time (1600 GMT), but violence persisted until the last minute.

In Israel, mortar shells fired from Gaza killed one man and seriously wounded two people, authorities said.

In Gaza, police reported that an Israeli airstrike 13 minutes before the cease-fire began collapsed a five-story building in the town of Beit Lahiya. Booms from Israeli strikes could be heard in Gaza after the truce announcement was made.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a long-time rival of Hamas, likely will play a key role in any new border deal for Gaza. Abbas lost control of Gaza after Hamas seized the territory in 2007. He is expected to regain a foothold there under the Egyptian-brokered agreement.

In such a scenario, forces loyal to Abbas could be posted at Gaza's border crossings to allay fears by Israel and Egypt about renewed attempts by Hamas to smuggle weapons into the territory.

Israel also is concerned that material for reconstruction could be diverted by Hamas for military purposes. In recent years, Hamas has built a network of attack tunnels under the border with Gaza that Israel says its forces largely demolished during the Gaza war.

In a televised address Tuesday night, Abbas said the end of the war underscored the need to find a permanent solution to the conflict with Israel.

"What's next? Gaza has been subjected to three wars. Shall we expect another war in a year or two? Until when will this issue be without a solution?" he asked.

Aides have said Abbas plans to ask the U.N. Security Council to demand Israel's withdrawal from all lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war to make way for an independent Palestinian state.

In Gaza, Hamas declared victory even though it had little to show for seven weeks of fighting. The war killed more than 2,140 Palestinians and wounded more than 11,000, Palestinian health officials said. The U.N. says about three-fourths of the Palestinians killed have been civilians.

"We are here today to declare the victory of the resistance, the victory of Gaza, with the help of God, and the steadfastness of our people and the noble resistance," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a news conference at Gaza's Shifa Hospital.

Israel and Egypt imposed the border blockade after the Hamas takeover of 2007. Under the restrictions, virtually all of Gaza's 1.8 million people cannot trade or travel. Only a few thousand are able to leave the coastal territory every month.

The Canadian Press

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