*Wednesday 18 June 2008 (13 Jumada al-Thani 1429)*
*Israel, Hamas agree to Gaza truce
Nidal Al-Mughrabi | Reuters*

*GAZA CITY: A cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza
Strip would begin tomorrow, Egypt said after mediating a deal that could
ease a crippling Israeli blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory. "Both
sides have pledged to halt all hostilities and all military activities
against each other," Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in
Cairo yesterday, after weeks of separate talks with Israel and Hamas. *

*Confirming details provided to Reuters by a Palestinian official in Gaza
yesterday, Zaki said the truce would go into effect at 6 a.m. tomorrow.*

*A cease-fire would aim to end rocket and mortar bomb attacks on Israel from
the Gaza Strip and Israeli raids in the territory. Israel has said it would
continue preparing for possible large-scale military action should a truce
fall apart.*

*Shortly before the Palestinian official said a six-month cease-fire had
been reached, Israel launched airstrikes that killed six gunmen in the Gaza

*Israel stopped short of confirming the timing of what it said would be an
informal arrangement to halt fighting. *

*Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, issued a
statement welcoming Egypt's efforts "to achieve calm" and saying progress
had been achieved toward halting Israeli "aggression and ending the siege."*

*Humanitarian aid*

*Israeli and Palestinian officials said earlier that under any truce accord,
the blockade Israel imposed on the Gaza Strip after Hamas seized the
territory a year ago from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction
would be eased gradually and partially. Israel has allowed in humanitarian
aid but has cut back on the supply of non-essential goods, such as
construction materials, as well as fuel, saying Gazans could not expect to
lead normal lives while Israelis were under rocket attack.*

*"What is important is not words but actions," said Mark Regev, a spokesman
for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He repeated Israel's demands for an
end to strikes on Israeli civilians, a halt to arms smuggling into the Gaza
Strip and progress toward the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier
seized by Gaza gunmen two years ago.*

*Israel's Defense Ministry said one of its senior officials, Amos Gilad, is
in Cairo and is being updated on the progress of the truce negotiations. "If
Hamas keeps the cease-fire, we can gradually deliver more goods and
supplies," the Israeli official said.*

*He said any commitment to a level of supplies into the Gaza Strip would be
kept "vague on purpose" and that the enclave's main crossing to the outside
world, the Rafah terminal along the Egyptian frontier, would remain closed
for now.*

*In pursuing a truce, Hamas has sought a reopening of crossings, including
at Rafah. The Israeli official said Rafah could reopen only if there was
"significant progress" on Shalit.*

*A Palestinian source said the Israeli-run Karni and Sufa crossings would
step up operations three days after the truce takes effect, with the flow of
goods set at 30 percent of the levels before Hamas took over the Gaza Strip.
Ten days after the truce begins, Israel would ease curbs at Karni and Sufa,
the source added, although some restrictions on certain goods would remain
in place*

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