Israeli government and Hamas militants ended their 22 day armed conflict on Sunday.

Israeli troops, some smiling and dancing, began to withdraw from Gaza, according to reports.

The truce brought relief to Gaza's citizens, who took stock of the devastation in relative safety for the first time since Israel launched the offensive on Dec. 27.

Tension eased in southern Israel, the target of Palestinian rocket fire, even though Hamas launched nearly 20 rockets in a final salvo before announcing a cease-fire. Three Israelis were lightly wounded, while two Palestinians were killed in last-minute fighting, medics said.

Israel and Hamas do not recognize each other and ended up separately declaring cease-fires 12 hours apart after strenuous efforts by Egyptian mediators to get an agreement. Israel first announced a unilateral cease-fire that took effect early Sunday, with Hamas initially vowing to keep fighting until all troops left Gaza. Later Sunday, Hamas also said it would hold its fire to give Israeli forces time to pull out.

According to Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, his country had no desire to stay in Gaza, a Mediterranean strip of 1.4 million people that was vacated by Israel in 2005 even though Gaza's airspace, coastal waters and border crossings remained under Israeli control.

We didn't set out to conquer Gaza. We didn't set out to control Gaza. We don't want to remain in Gaza, and we intend on leaving Gaza as fast as possible, Olmert said at a dinner in Jerusalem with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Spain according to the Associated Press.

Despite losses and defeats, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh claimed a heavenly victory in remarks broadcast on Al-Jazeera Arabic news channel.

The Israeli military warned that the next few days were critical and that any Hamas attacks against Israel would be met with sharp retaliation.