Israel, Hamas declare separate ceasefires in Gaza

Sunday, January 18, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

Israel and Hamas declared separate unilateral ceasefires on Sunday, bringing to a halt three weeks of intense warfare in and around the Gaza Strip. Both sides declared ultimatums for the other.

Israel insisted that its troops to remain deployed in the Gaza Strip until the terrorists completely halted their rocket fire on southern Israel, and until guarantees could be obtained that satisfied Israel that Hamas would no longer pose a threat to its citizens.

Hamas waited about 12 hours after the Israeli announcement to declare its own ceasefire, and launched 17 missiles into southern Israel during the intervening period to drive home the point that it had not been defeated by the ferocious Israeli offensive.

The terror group then gave Israel one week to get its forces out of Gaza. Hamas also demanded that Israel and Egypt throw open the border crossings to Gaza to unhindered traffic, possibly setting the stage for future rocket attacks when Israel refuses to fully comply with such a demand.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned in an address to the nation that renewed terrorist rocket fire on southern Israel could result in a resumption of what was dubbed "Operation Cast Lead."

Amid skepticism in Israel over halting the offensive at this time, Olmert maintained that Israel had met and even exceeded its goals in the campaign against Hamas terror.

Olmert was somewhat vague on what those goals were, but insisted that Hamas had been dealt a serious blow and that the security situation for southern Israel would now change. He also pointed to a "memorandum of understanding" signed by the US, Germany, Britain and France promising undefined assistance in preventing smuggled arms from reaching Hamas.

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