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PM: Cease-fire will allow Israelis to get back to routine
By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
21/11/2012
Egypt FM makes formal announcement of truce in joint press conference with Clinton in Cairo; Netanyahu touts success of Operation Pillar of Defense, thanks Obama for "unwavering support for Israel" during operation.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday defended his decision to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza saying he wished to allow Israel's citizens to "return to their normal routine."

Netanyahu discussed his decision to agree to a cease-fire, ending Operation Pillar of Defense after eight days, at a press conferece with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. The Egyptian and US-brokered cease-fire went into effect at 9 p.m. as the three leaders spoke.

Netanyahu stated that Operation Pillar of Defense had successfully destroyed "thousands of Hamas rockets" and destroyed the organization's command centers.

Netanyahu thanked US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for helping to secure the cease-fire agreement in Egypt. He also voiced his gratitude to US President Barack Obama.

The prime minister said that Obama showed "unwavering support for Israel's right to defend itself." He added that the US and Israel would cooperate going forward in halting the smuggling of weapons from Iran into the Gaza Strip.

Egypt announced that a cease-fire had been reached to end eight days of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, saying that the agreement would go into effect at 9 p.m.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr made the announcement in a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.



"These efforts ... have resulted in understandings to cease fire and restore calm and halt the bloodshed that the last period has seen," Amr said.

Israel has agreed to the truce, but will not lift its blockade of Gaza as part of the deal, according to an Israeli official.

Netanyahu told US President Barack Obama on Wednesday he was ready to give a cease-fire with Hamas a chance, his office said in a statement.

"(Netanyahu) spoke a short while ago with President Barack Obama and agreed to his recommendation to give the Egyptian cease-fire proposal a chance, and in this way provide an opportunity to stabilize the situation and calm it before any more forceful action would be necessary," an Israeli statement said.

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More than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed in the fighting that began last Wednesday.

The cease-fire was forged despite a bus bomb explosion that wounded 28 Israelis in Tel Aviv earlier in the day and despite more Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

After talks in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Clinton held a second meeting with Netanyahu before traveling to Egypt for discussions with Morsi, whose country has led mediation efforts.

In Tel Aviv, targeted by rockets from Gaza that either did not hit the city or were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome interceptor system, 28 people were wounded when a bus was blown up near the Defense Ministry and military headquarters.

The blast, which police said was caused by a bomb placed on the vehicle, touched off celebratory gunfire in Gaza and had threatened to complicate truce efforts. It was the first serious bombing in Israel's commercial capital since 2006.

In Gaza, Israel struck more than 100 targets, including a cluster of Hamas government buildings, in attacks that medical officials said killed 10 people, among them a 2-year-old boy.

Medical officials in Gaza said 146 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, including 36 children, have been killed in Israel's offensive. Nearly 1,400 rockets have been fired into Israel, killing four civilians and a soldier, the military said.
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