01/19/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE

Gaza: truce for a week. Israel begins gradual withdrawal of troops

In the wake of Israel’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad groups announce a truce. From the European Leaders summit in Egypt promises of funds for reconstruction and security forces.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The gradual withdrawal of Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) from Gaza continues on the second day of the unilateral truce first declared by Israel and then by Hamas and Palestinian groups of the Islamic Jihad present in the Strip.  For the people in the region, Sunday night was the second night of relative calm since the outbreak of violence on December 27th that has cost the lives of over 1300 people.

The international community is now getting to grips with making the ceasefire last.  Leaders from France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain met at a summit Sunday in Sharm el Sheikh organised by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.  UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon, Czech premier Mirek Topolanek, who currently holds the EU presidency and a representative of the Arab League also took part, as well as the leader of the Palestinian Authority Abu Mazen, who was not originally slated to attend.

Mubarak announced a new international summit to take place soon with the aim of coordinating reconstruction in Gaza and the setting out of a lasting peace plan.  French President Sarkozy reiterated the need for the creation of two states, while in the interim all leaders agreed to make troops available to send to the Strip as security forces and to set aside funds for pressing humanitarian aid.

Tel Aviv says it will have fully withdrawn its troops within a few days.  After a late night meeting with leaders from France, Britain, Germany and Italy, Ehud Olmert declared: “It is not our intention to take control of Gaza or remain there and we want to leave it as soon as possible”.

According to Israeli plans once troop withdrawal is complete, the army will be stationed along its borders with Gaza.  The IDF are meanwhile, drawing up a “price list” that will set out their future military response to militant attacks from Gaza during the ceasefire.

In a televised statement shortly after Olmert's declaration in the wake of his meeting with European Leaders, Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, the IDF withdrawal was “a great victory, not for one faction, or party, or area, but for our entire people.  We have stopped the aggression and the enemy has failed to achieve any of its goals”.

 

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