Israel, Hamas agree to Gaza truce, officials confirm

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 |  by Staff Writer

A senior Israeli defense official confirmed on Tuesday that, despite government claims to the contrary, Israel has agreed to an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire with the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip.

Speaking to the French wire service AFP, the official, who asked that his name be withheld, said that Israel agreed to halt its war on the Gaza terrorist infrastructure in exchange for Hamas and its allies ceasing their rocket and missile attacks on southern Israel.

As part of the deal, the Egyptians also pledged to do more to stop arms smuggling along their short border with Gaza.

A Hamas official who spoke to Israel's Army Radio on Tuesday confirmed the agreement.

Israeli opposition lawmakers responded angrily to the reports.

Speaking to Israel National News, Knesset Member Nissan Slomiansky of the National Religious Party explained that the very fact Hamas is interested in a ceasefire means the group is weak and must be hit hard now. Allowing Hamas to enjoy a period of respite will give it an opportunity to rearm, regroup and recruit additional fighters, the lawmaker noted.

Earlier in the week, both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak rejected reports that their government was engaged in ceasefire negotiations with Hamas, an internationally-recognized terrorist organization that both men have vowed to defeat.

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