Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
speaks at a press conference after security cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv,
on Jan. 17, 2008. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Saturday evening
declared a unilateral ceasefire in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, beginning
from 2 a.m. (0000 GMT) Sunday. The declaration came shortly after Israeli
security cabinet voted in favor of a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, where
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Cast Lead Operation had been going on in the
past three weeks, killing more than 1,200 Palestinians. (Xinhua
JERUSALEM, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert Saturday evening announced a unilateral ceasefire in the Hamas-ruled
Gaza Strip, beginning from 2 a.m. (0000 GMT) Sunday.
The announcement came shortly after Israeli security
cabinet voted in favor of a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, where Israel Defense
Forces (IDF) Cast Lead Operation had been going on in the past three weeks.
The decision means Israel has put an end to the
operation without an agreement with Hamas, relying instead on the support of the
United States and Egypt in battling weapons smuggling into Gaza, said local
At a press conference in Tel Aviv, Olmert said that
the goals of the operation in Gaza had been "met in full."
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (R)
shakes hands with Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a press conference after
security cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, on Jan. 17, 2008.
(Xinhua Photo) Photo Gallery>>>
The Jewish state has repeatedly said that the goals
of the operation are to deal Hamas a harsh blow, force the militant group to put
an end to anti-Israel activity and stop weapon smuggling from Egypt to Gaza
"We have reached all of our objectives in Gaza," said
Olmert, adding that Hamas has been dealt a heavy blow by IDF, and Hamas leaders
are now in hiding.
Most rocket launching areas in Gaza are now
controlled by the IDF, said the prime minister, adding "No doubt that without
Cast Lead Operation, we would not have reached our goals."
"We reached agreements with Egypt on fighting arms
smuggling," he added.
Olmert said that if Hamas entirely ends its rocket
attacks on Israel will consider the withdrawal of IDF from Gaza. But he did not
say the exact time for the possible withdrawal.
However, if Hamas continues to fire on southern
Israel, the IDF will continue to operate in order to protect Israeli citizens,
the prime minister said.
"If Hamas returns to their unruly attacks, they will
be surprised again by the hand of Israel -- I don't advise them to try it," he
Hamas had underestimated Israel's decisiveness, and
was still not fully aware of how badly it had been damaged, said Olmert, noting
that "Our fight is not with the people of Gaza."
Nevertheless, Hamas leaders have repeated that the
militant group will not respect any ceasefire as long as Israeli troops remain
inside the Palestinian coastal enclave.
Shortly after Olmert's announcement, Israeli Defense
Minister Ehud Barak warned that the IDF will stay in Gaza and restart the
military operation if necessary.
"We will stop the fire but there is no guarantee that
Hamas will do the same. The army will stay as needed and if Hamas continues to
fire, the army will fire back severely and will be ready to follow and intensify
its operations as necessary," said Barak.
Earlier on Saturday, the defense minister said during
a visit to IDF paratroopers that the IDF is nearing the goals set for its
operation in Gaza, which serves as a strong hint at the unilateral ceasefire
announcement made by Olmert.
"After three weeks of Operation Cast Lead, we are
very close to securing the operation's objectives and complementing them with
diplomatic agreements," said Barak.
However, the troops must "continue their operational
activity and be ready for any possible development," said the defense minister.
Minutes after Olmert declared the unilateral
ceasefire in Gaza, Islamic Hamas movement's armed wing al-Qassam Brigades sent a
statement to reporters, saying they will "continue resistance as long as the
occupation of Gaza continues and the blockade is imposed."
Meanwhile, Muin Nasri, a Palestinian doctor working
in Gaza, told Xinhua on the phone that "I hope there is a Hamas ceasefire after
Israel's declaration, but if Israel does not withdraw its troops from Gaza in
one or two days, the ceasefire will collapse."
Caoimhe Butterly, an Irish human rights activist
working in Jabalia and Gaza City as a volunteer with ambulance services, said
"Israel should stop killing innocent people and a complete withdrawal of Israeli
troops is necessary for Hamas to stop fire."
The Cast Lead Operation, which began on Dec. 27,
entered its 22nd day on Saturday, killing more than 1,200 Palestinians. On the
Israeli side, 13 people were killed since the operation, including four killed
by rockets from Gaza. The other nine were soldiers killed in Gaza ground
UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- The UN General
Assembly (GA)Friday concluded a two-day emergency special session by sending a
strong message to the world demanding an immediate end to the Gaza conflict,
which raged on for three weeks and left more than 1,000 Palestinians killed
despite a new Security Council resolution calling for an immediate, durable and
fully respected ceasefire.
A GA resolution adopted at the end of the meeting demands
full respect for the Security Council resolution, known as the resolution 1860,
and calls upon all parties, including the 15-member Security Council, to "use
all means at their disposal to ensure full and urgent compliance with the
17 (Xinhua) -- Several Palestinian militant groups claimed responsibility on
Saturday for carrying out a series of armed attacks against the Israeli army and
firing rockets at southern Israeli towns.
Al-Qassam Brigades, Islamic Hamas movement's armed wing
claimed responsibility for launching two Russian-made Grad rockets from Gaza at
the southern Israeli towns of Efokim and Netivot.
Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- At least four Palestinians were killed when Israeli tanks
shelled a UN-run school in Beit Lahya in northern Gaza Strip on Saturday
morning, local medical sources and witnesses said.
Gaza emergency chief Mo'aweya Hassanein said that the tank
shelling killed at least four and wounded ten, adding that three people were
killed in northern Gaza City in an air strike this morning.