* Quiet reigns after truce ends 8-day conflict
* Hamas celebrates outcome as victory
* Wary adversaries see no lasting peace
By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller
GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 22 A ceasefire between
Israel and Hamas held firm on Thursday with scenes of joy among
the ruins in Gaza over what Palestinians hailed as a victory,
and both sides saying their fingers were still on the trigger.
In the sudden calm, Palestinians who had been under Israeli
bombs for eight days poured into Gaza streets for a celebratory
rally, walking past wrecked houses and government buildings.
But as a precaution, schools stayed closed in southern
Israel, where nerves were jangled by warning sirens - a false
alarm, the army said - after a constant rain of rockets during
the most serious Israeli-Palestinian fighting in four years.
Israel had launched its strikes last week with a declared
aim of ending rocket attacks on its territory from Gaza, ruled
by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which denies Israel's
right to exist. Hamas had responded with more rockets.
The truce brokered by Egypt's new Islamist leaders, working
with the United States, headed off an Israeli invasion of Gaza.
It was the fruit of intensive diplomacy spurred by U.S.
President Barack Obama, who sent his secretary of state to Cairo
and backed her up with phone calls to Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi.
Mursi's role in cajoling his Islamist soulmates in Gaza into
the U.S.-backed deal with Israel suggested that Washington can
find ways to cooperate with the Muslim Brotherhood leader whom
Egyptians elected after toppling former U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak,
a bulwark of American policy in the Middle East for 30 years.
Mursi, preoccupied with Egypt's economic crisis, cannot
afford to tamper with a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, despite
its unpopularity with Egyptians, and needs U.S. financial aid.
Despite the quiet on the battlefield, the death toll from
the Gaza conflict crept up on both sides.
The body of Mohammed al-Dalu, 25, was recovered from the
rubble of a house where nine of his relatives - four children
and five women - were killed by an Israeli bomb this week.
That raised to 163 the number of Palestinians killed, more
than half of them civilians, including 37 children, during the
Israeli onslaught, according to Gaza medical officials.
Nearly 1,400 rockets struck Israel, killing four civilians
and two soldiers, including an officer who died on Thursday of
wounds sustained the day before, the Israeli army said.
Israel dropped 1,000 times as much explosive on the Gaza
Strip as landed on its soil, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said.
Municipal workers in Gaza began cleaning streets and
removing the rubble of bombed buildings. Stores opened and
people flocked to markets to buy food.
Jubilant crowds celebrated, with most people waving green
Hamas flags but some carrying the yellow emblems of the rival
Fatah group, led by Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas.
That marked a rare show of unity five years after Hamas,
which won a Palestinian poll in 2006, forcibly wrested Gaza
from Fatah, still dominant in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israel began ferrying tanks northwards, away from the
border, on transporters. It plans to discharge gradually tens of
thousands of reservists called up for a possible Gaza invasion.
But trust between Israel and Hamas remains in short supply
and both said they might well have to fight again.
"The battle with the enemy has not ended yet," Abu Ubaida,
spokesman of Hamas's armed wing Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam Brigades,
said at an event to mourn its acting military chief Ahmed
al-Jaabari, whose killing by Israel on Nov. 14 set off this
"HANDS ON TRIGGER"
The exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, said in Cairo
his Islamist movement would respect the truce, but warned that
if Israel violated it "our hands are on the trigger".
Netanyahu said he had agreed to "exhaust this opportunity
for an extended truce", but told Israelis a tougher approach
might be required in the future.
Facing a national election in two months, he swiftly came
under fire from opposition politicians who had rallied to his
side during the fighting but now contend he emerged from the
conflict with no real gains for Israel.
"You don't settle with terrorism, you defeat it. And
unfortunately, a decisive victory has not been achieved and we
did not recharge our deterrence," Shaul Mofaz, leader of the
main opposition Kadima party, wrote on his Facebook page.
In a speech, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's prime minister in Gaza,
urged all Palestinian factions to respect the ceasefire and said
his government and security services would monitor compliance.
According to a text of the agreement seen by Reuters, both
sides should halt all hostilities, with Israel desisting from
incursions and targeting of individuals, while all Palestinian
factions should cease rocket fire and cross-border attacks.
The deal also provides for easing Israeli curbs on Gaza's
residents, but the two sides disagreed on what this meant.
Israeli sources said Israel would not lift a blockade of the
enclave it enforced after Hamas won a Palestinian election in
2006, but Meshaal said the deal covered the opening of all of
the territory's border crossings with Israel and Egypt.
Israel let dozens of trucks carry supplies into the
Palestinian enclave during the fighting. Residents there have
long complained that Israeli restrictions blight their economy.
Barak said Hamas, which declared Nov. 22 a national holiday
to mark its "victory", had suffered heavy military blows.
"A large part of the mid-range rockets were destroyed. Hamas
managed to hit Israel's built-up areas with around a tonne of
explosives, and Gaza targets got around 1,000 tonnes," he said.
He dismissed a ceasefire text published by Hamas, saying:
"The right to self-defence trumps any piece of paper."
He appeared to confirm, however, a Hamas claim that the
Israelis would no longer enforce a no-go zone on the Gaza side
of the frontier that the army says has prevented Hamas raids.