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Rocket salvo tests Gaza ceasefire

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by Njowepo, Jan 18, 2009.

  1. Njowepo

    Njowepo JF-Expert Member

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    Jan 18, 2009
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    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announces the ceasefire
    A volley of rockets has been fired into southern Israel from Gaza, hours after a unilateral Israeli ceasefire began.
    At least four out of six rockets landed near the town of Sderot, with no reports of injuries. Israel launched an air strike on Gaza in response.
    The exchange puts an immediate strain on the ceasefire, which followed three weeks of fighting.
    Israel says its troops will not pull out for now, but Hamas said it would not accept an Israeli presence in Gaza.
    Israeli forces killed a Palestinian near the southern Gazan town of Khan Younis on Sunday morning, reports from Gaza said. If confirmed, the death would be the first fatality since the ceasefire began.
    Medical officials in Gaza say they have recovered 40 bodies from the rubble since Israel halted its offensive, bringing the total death toll to 1245, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
    Thirteen Israelis have been killed since Israel launched its offensive against on 27 December.
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    Shortly before the rockets fell, Israeli troops briefly traded fire with Hamas militants in the north of the Gaza Strip after coming under attack, Israeli military officials said.
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the latest attacks "again proved that the ceasefire is fragile and it has to be reassessed on a minute-by-minute basis".
    International leaders are due in Egypt on Sunday for a summit aimed at shoring up the ceasefire.
    Heads of state from across Europe will join Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and UN chief Ban Ki-moon at Sharm El-Shiekh to give their backing to a permanent peace.
    Olmert warning
    The rockets were fired at about 0900 (0700 GMT), Israeli police said.
    Israeli aircraft struck the militants who launched the rockets from the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, the military said.
    Hours earlier, Prime Minister Olmert told the nation that Israel was halting its offensive whose goals "have been more than fully achieved". The stopping of rocket-fire had been a chief aim of the military campaign.
    Rockets fired despite ceasefire
    In a televised address, Mr Olmert warned militants in Gaza that if they "decide the blows they've been dealt are not sufficient and they are interested in continuing the fight, Israel will be prepared for such and feel free to continue to react with force".
    The ceasefire came into effect at 0200.
    Hamas has rejected the move, saying any continued Israeli presence in Gaza would be regarded as an act of war.
    "The occupier must halt his fire immediately and withdraw from our land and lift his blockade and open all crossings and we will not accept any one Zionist soldier on our land, regardless of the price that it costs," Hamas spokesman Farzi Barhoum said, shortly before the ceasefire began.
    Mr Abbas said the ceasefire was "important and necessary but insufficient", and called for a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.
    Israel has begun pulling some of its troops out of the territory, says the BBC's Katya Adler in Jerusalem.
    But it says others will remain for now and strike back if Israel continues to come under attack.
    Eyes on Hamas
    The US has welcomed the ceasefire, saying it "expects that all parties will cease attacks and hostile actions immediately".
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    Secretary General Ban expressed relief, saying the ceasefire should be "the first step leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza".
    Aid organisations have expressed concern that crossings into Gaza will not reopen fully unless Hamas is committed to a ceasefire.
    BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen says the question now is whether Hamas decides to lick its wounds and regroup - or whether it gambles on dragging Israel into a war of attrition.
    Hamas representatives have been taking part in talks in Cairo, brokered by President Mubarak, aimed at reaching a bilateral deal.
    On Saturday, Germany, France and Britain sent identical letters to the Israeli and Egyptian governments offering support for a ceasefire and their help in preventing arms smuggling into Gaza.
     
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