A ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has gone into effect Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m. local time after a series of contacts between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas late Saturday. The hopes for the agreement to last were shattered, however, only an hour after the ceasefire took effect, as a salvo of rockets was fired at Israel and landed in open fields in the Negev.
The ceasefire was agreed upon by PM Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas late Saturday night as Abbas telephoned Olmert in order to inform him that he had reached agreements with all Palestinian factions to halt all violent actions from the Gaza Strip including rocket fire, the digging of tunnels and the dispatch of suicide terrorists.
Prime Minister Olmert then consulted with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and other ministers, and with senior security establishment commanders, and informed Abbas that in light of the ceasefire, Israel would halt its military actions and withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip in the hope that the cessation of violent activity will last and serve both sides.
Despite the mutual understanding between Abbas and Olmert, six rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza at around 7:00 AM local time, one hour into the ceasefire, all landing in open fields without causing any damage or injuries. Both military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad took separate responsibility for the attacks, claiming they were done because of the “IDF’s continuing crimes” in Gaza. It is important to note that the Islamic Jihad was the first to suggest this ceasefire, but Palestinian sources point to internal disagreements within the organization regarding the ceasefire.
Sources within the defense establishment said in response to the attack that the first few hours after the attack will be critical to assess the ceasefire agreement and the steps the IDF will take in response. Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that any fire into Israel will be considered a violation of the ceasefire and that if Abbas cannot control the different factions, Israel will act to defend its citizens.
The two men agreed to continue to discuss the expansion of the cessation of violent activity to Judea and Samaria in the future. They also agreed to speak again soon in order to continue these measures.