Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hamas confirms truce with Israel to go into effect Thursday

From JPost.com Jun 17, 2008 by JPOST.COM STAFF AND AP:

A Hamas spokesman said Tuesday that his organization is committed to an Egyptian-mediated truce deal with Israel set to go into effect Thursday. Sami Abu Zuhri said Hamas will commit to the "zero hour" declared by Egypt.

An official Egyptian statement earlier Tuesday said the cease-fire will go into effect on Thursday at 6 a.m.

...Israeli officials declined to confirm a deal, but voiced "cautious optimism" and said Israel's negotiator in the truce talks was rushing to Cairo.

...Defense officials, however, said they expected negotiations on Schalit to begin on Sunday, a tacit admission that a truce was in the works.

Earlier Tuesday, during a session of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said that Israel was on a "collision course" with Hamas and that he adopted the stance of intelligence officials, who believed that a truce would be short and fragile. "The IDF will respect a cease-fire but is also getting ready for a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip," Ashkenazi added.

IDF's Research Division Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz had told the FADC that in his estimation, Hamas intended to continue smuggling weapons into Gaza, irrespective of a truce, and that it would continue working to bolster terror infrastructure and use the cease-fire as a chance to regroup and rearm.

Meanwhile, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported that the truce would consist of three stages and Palestinian sources told the Arabic daily that the cease-fire would be in place for six months at first and would later include the West Bank as well.

According to the report, the first stage of the cease-fire would be implemented once Israel opens the Karni and Sufa crossings. During the second stage, which would start a week later, Israel would remove certain restrictions on the goods which are allowed into Gaza.

The third stage, set to start a week later, would include discussions on a new mechanism of operating the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

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