Sunday, January 18, 2009
16:43 Mecca time, 13:43 GMT
News Middle East
Hamas and allies declare ceasefire
Hamas and their allied Palestinian factions have announced an immediate
one-week ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, giving Israel a week to pull out of the
The move, following a meeting of the factions in Damascus on Sunday, comes a
day after Israel called a unilateral truce, ending its 22-day offensive in Gaza
which led to the deaths of 1,203 Palestinians.
"Hamas and the factions announce a ceasefire in Gaza starting immediately and
give Israel a week to withdraw," Ayman Taha, a senior Hamas official talking
from Cairo, said.
Hamas also demanded that Israel open all of the Gaza Strip's border crossings
to allow in food and other goods to meet the "basic needs for our people".
Israel had already said on Sunday that it will not consider a timetable for
withdrawing all of its forces from the Gaza Strip until Hamas and other
militants cease their fire.
Cease rocket fire
Palestinian factions have continued to fire rockets into southern Israel since
the beginning of the offensive, killing three Israelis, out of a total of 13
Israelis that have died since the begining of the war.
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They have also been fighting Israel's ground forces which enterd the Gaza Strip
in the second week of the offensive.
An end to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel was the stated aim of the
Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on Saturday, with Ehud Olmert, the prime
minister, stating that they had achieved their objectives.
"We have reached all the goals of the war, and beyond," he said. "[But] if our
enemies decide to strike and want to carry on, then the Israeli army will
regard itself as free to respond with force."
Olmert also said the war boosted Israel's deterrence and that Hamas's actions
would decide when the military would withdraw.
"This operation strengthened the deterrence of the state of Israel in the face
of all those who threaten us," he said.
"If Hamas completely stops its attacks, we will judge at what moment we will
leave the Gaza Strip."
However, Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza City, said some in
the Gaza Strip are claiming a victory for Hamas and other Palestinian factions
on an operational and symbolic level.
"On an operational level on the last day of the war and even after the war
Palestinian factions are still capable of firing rockets, no doubt about that.
"In fact, more than a dozen or so have been fired today according to the
factions here on the ground.
"On a symbolic level, at the end of the day the Palestinian people remain here
on the ground, having paid a very heavy price though.
"Their position was one of steadfast defiance. The fact that they can stay and
essentially ... claim that they have been able to stave off this aggression, in
terms of the leadership and the command and control structure of Hamas and the
government here, is certainly a sign for many here that they have been
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
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