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Just minutes after a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Palestinian groups began Tuesday evening, hundreds of Palestinians poured onto the streets of Gaza City to celebrate what was being touted as a victory.
Meanwhile, Israeli leaders praised the success of the military operation and the resilience of their people, particularly those living in the south of the country who were subjected to a barrage of rockets from Gaza.
Now for the inevitable question: What, if anything, has changed on the ground for either side as a result of the war?
More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed during seven weeks of fighting, some 11,000 injured and 10,000 buildings damaged. Meanwhile, 69 Israelis died — 65 of them soldiers. This is the highest fatality rate since Israel’s 2006 war with Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Seven weeks ago, Israel said it was going after Hamas’ ability to fire rockets. Some called on the army to completely destroy Hamas, the militant group that runs the enclave.
Neither goal was realized.
The countdown until the next round of violence is already ticking.
According to the Israeli military, more than 70 rockets were fired into Israel on the last day of the war. So even after 50 days of fighting — weeks of shelling, airstrikes and Israeli soldiers being killed — Palestinian rockets were still being fired at civilians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had demanded that a cease-fire be made contingent on Gaza becoming a demilitarized zone and Palestinian factions such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad be stripped of their weapons — with the international community helping ensure they didn’t rebuild their arsenal.
That didn’t happen.
If anything, with the promise that Palestinians will eventually be allowed to import construction supplies, militants will likely rebuild the network of tunnels that proved so lethal in their fight against Israel.
In Gaza, the war exacted a devastating price.
It is impossible to find a Palestinian there who was untouched by the conflict. Families lost loved ones. Neighborhoods were completely destroyed. More than 100,000 people were displaced, according to the United Nations. Businesses, factories, shops and warehouses were demolished by Israeli bombs.
Gaza’s economy is in ruins.
Aid workers warn that mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress, will haunt a generation of Palestinian children, some of whom have now lived through three wars in six years.
Palestinian groups who had argued they were fighting to make sure the siege on Gaza was lifted entirely failed because the blockade and occupation continues.
Under the cease-fire agreement, the population of Gaza will live under restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt, both of which have a hostile relationship with Hamas and control border crossing.
So an easing of the blockade will allow humanitarian aid and construction materials to be drip-fed into the Strip. It will most likely not revive the economy or restore livelihoods of families who lost everything. Palestinian demands that the airport and sea port be rebuilt were not realized.
Seven weeks after the war started, the conflict stands where it began, except that now thousands of lives are in ruins.
Meanwhile, each side claims to be the victor: The countdown until the next round of violence is already ticking.