JERUSALEM — After 50 days of fighting that took some 2,200 lives, leveled large areas of the Gaza Strip and paralyzed Israel's south for the summer, Israeli and Palestinian leaders reached an open-ended cease-fire agreement Tuesday that promised only limited change to conditions in Gaza and left unresolved the broader issues underpinning the conflict.
Hamas, the militant Islamist faction that dominates Gaza, declared victory even though it had abandoned most of its demands, ultimately accepting an Egyptian-brokered deal that differs little from one proffered on the battle's seventh day. In effect, the deal put both sides back where they were at the end of eight days of fighting in 2012, with terms that called for easing but not lifting Israeli restrictions on travel, trade and fishing in Gaza.
In Israel, continual barrages of rocket fire and fears about starting school Monday without a cease-fire had increased pressure on the government from citizens exhausted by what had become a war of attrition. Yuval Steinitz, a senior Israeli minister, said in a television interview Tuesday night that he accepted the cease-fire "with a sour taste of missed opportunity."
"We did not want this violence, and we did not want this war," Steinitz said. "This is a reasonable arrangement."
In Gaza City, "God is great" blared from mosque loudspeakers and celebratory gunshots exploded in the air as hundreds waved the green flags of Hamas.
"We declare the victory of the Palestinian resistance, the victory of Gaza," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri announced at Gaza's Shifa Hospital.
A statement from Egypt's Foreign Ministry describing the deal included only vague language about the need to create "an independent Palestinian state to achieve peace and security in the region." Hamas' call for a seaport and airport in Gaza, and Israel's call for demilitarization of the territory were put off for discussion within a month if the truce holds.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States "strongly supported" the cease-fire agreement and asked all sides to comply with their terms after others had broken down.