Palestinians and Israelis went about their day blanketed in relative calm Thursday, after a cease-fire brokered hours before gave citizens in the volatile area their first quiet night in more than a week.
If Israel and the Hamas militants who run the Gaza Strip can maintain peace until 9 p.m. local time , border areas from Gaza will be opened, allowing people and goods to move in and out of the territory.
The truce brokered by Egypt took effect at 9:00 p.m. local time Wednesday. Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr made the truce announcement in Cairo with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at his side.
Gazans poured into the streets after the cease-fire began, with some firing guns in celebration. In the West Bank Palestinian territory, Israel's army said Thursday it arrested 55 suspected senior-level Palestinian militants that were members of various armed factions.
Egypt is monitoring both sides for violations of the cease-fire agreement. The truce follows several days of intense aerial assaults on both sides of the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, leaving more than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis dead.
The deal was reached amid hours of intense diplomacy involving Clinton, as well as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Clinton called the truce “a critical moment for the region.”
“The people of this region deserve a chance to live free from fear and violence and today's agreement is a step in the right direction that we should build on.”
Clinton also praised Egypt's new government for assuming a key role in the effort and for pledging to work with Washington to ensure the cease-fire holds.
On Wednesday, a bomb blast on a bus in central Tel Aviv wounded at least 27 people, some seriously.
New rounds of missile and air attacks rained down on Gaza following the Tel Aviv attack. Palestinians medics Wednesday said at least 10 people were killed, including a young boy.
Israel and Hamas had traded rocket fire since an Israeli missile killed Hamas's military chief in Gaza City last week. Israel says the attack was a direct response to months of almost daily rocket fire into southern Israel from Gaza.