, GAZA CITY, August 27- The skies over the Gaza Strip were calm Wednesday as a long term ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians took hold after 50 days of the deadliest violence in a decade.
Millions in and around the war torn enclave enjoyed a welcome night of peace during which there were no strikes on Gaza, nor Palestinian rockets fired at Israel, the Israeli army said.
“Since the truce came into force, there has been no IDF activity in Gaza, and no rocket fire on Israel,” a military spokeswoman said 12 hours after the guns on both sides fell silent.
In Gaza, where celebrations erupted once the truce took hold at 1600 GMT on Tuesday, the festivities continued late into the night as its 1.8 million residents revelled in the end of seven weeks of bloody violence.
The conflict, which began on July 8 when Israel began Operation Protective Edge in a bid to stamp out cross border rocket fire, has claimed the lives of 2,143 Palestinians and 70 on the Israeli side.
UN figures show nearly 70 percent of the Palestinian victims were civilians, while 64 of the Israelis killed were soldiers.
The Palestinians said it was a “permanent” truce, while a senior Israeli official described it as “unconditional and unlimited in time”.
Washington gave its full backing to the Egyptian mediated deal, with US Secretary of State John Kerry calling on both sides “to fully and completely comply with its terms.
“We strongly support today’s ceasefire agreement,” he said early Wednesday, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon voiced hope that the ceasefire in Gaza would set the stage for talks on a final Israeli Palestinian peace deal.
Britain also welcomed the truce, hailing Egyptian efforts to end the violence.
“The ceasefire provides a critical and welcome window of opportunity for reaching a comprehensive agreement that tackles the underlying causes of the conflict,” said Tobias Ellwood, Britain’s Minister for the Middle East.
And Tony Blair, envoy for the Middle East Quartet of diplomatic peacemakers, also welcomed the end of the bloodshed.
“The Quartet will now concentrate on a long term plan for Gaza and for its reconstruction, including the effective and efficient re-opening and re-connection (of the enclave) to the outside world under the authority of the Palestinian Authority government,” he said in a statement.