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Cease-fire declared after eight days of fighting
By HERB KEINON
22/11/2012
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.
 
An Egyptian-brokered truce that went into effect Wednesday night put an end to the eight-day-old Operation Pillar of Defense, in which Gazan terrorists fired thousands of rockets into Israel, including a few that struck near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Hamas, which, according to the agreement, pledged to stop all hostilities from Gaza against Israel, fired a massive volley of missiles into Beersheba and the South up to the final minutes before the cease-fire was set to go into effect, in an apparent effort to be able to claim victory.

The IAF responded with attacks of its own inside the Gaza Strip.

Hamas then continued firing rockets into Israel after the cease-fire was supposed to go into effect.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, along with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, announced the truce to the country with a statement to the press about an hour after Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the news in Cairo.



“I know that there are citizens who expect an even harsher military action, and it is possible this might be necessary,” Netanyahu said.

“But right now, the right thing for the State of Israel is to realize this opportunity for a prolonged cease-fire.”

Netanyahu, who spoke even as Code Red rocket warning announcements were drowning out his words when they were broadcast on Israel Radio, said Israel has since its creation faced “complex challenges” in the Middle East, and these challenges have only gotten more complicated in recent years.

“Under these conditions, we need to steer the ship of state responsibly and with wisdom and must take into account numerous considerations, both military and diplomatic ones. That is how a responsible government acts, and that is how we acted this time as well. We employed military might along with diplomatic judgment,” the prime minister explained.

The Egyptian announcement of the armistice ended a day of frenetic diplomatic activity that began with a meeting between Netanyahu and Clinton that started late Tuesday night and went past midnight.

Clinton then went to Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, after which she returned for a second meeting with Netanyahu. She then went to Cairo, where she met with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi before holding the press conference with Amr where the deal was announced.

According to the unsigned agreement, Israel pledged to “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.”

Hamas agreed that “all Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.”

According to the text of the agreement, the first time Israel has committed to anything in writing with Hamas, “opening the [Gaza] crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the cease-fire.”

The text of the agreement gave Egypt a key role as “sponsor” of the understanding, saying it “shall receive assurances from each party that the party commits to what was agreed upon.” Morsi’s successful brokering of the deal is expected to raise his stature in the region.

Liberman, who in the past has not spared Cairo his criticism, said on Wednesday night that Morsi and Egypt deserved thanks for their “responsible behavior” in solving the conflict. The US and Germany played key roles in securing Morsi’s cooperation.

The agreement came hours after a bomb tore through a bus in Tel Aviv – the first bus bombing since 2004.

Soon after the announcement in Egypt, Netanyahu issued a statement saying he spoke with US President Barack Obama and “acceded to his recommendation to give the Egyptian cease-fire proposal a chance and thereby give an opportunity to stabilize and calm the situation before there is a need to use greater force.”

The prime minister, during his statement to the press, praised Obama for “unwavering support” for Israel’s actions during the operation and for the country’s right to defend itself. He also thanked the American president for his support in regards to the Iron Dome missile defense system.

“In my conversation this evening with President Obama, I agreed with him that it was worth giving a chance to the cease-fire in order to calm down the situation and allow Israeli citizens to return to their routine,” the prime minister said.

With that, Netanyahu said, it was clear that Israel could not sit with arms folded in the face of efforts by its enemies to arm themselves.

“Therefore I agreed with President Obama that we will work together against the smuggling of weapons – the vast majority of which comes from Iran – to the terrorist organizations.”

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Barak said in his statement to the press that the main goals of the operation were achieved: an end to the rocket fire hammering the South, the reestablishment of Israel’s deterrence, and the delivery of a significant blow to Hamas.

The White House, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that Obama “reiterated his commitment to Israel’s security,” and made clear that “no country can be expected to tolerate rocket attacks against civilians.”

According to the statement, “the president expressed his appreciation for the prime minister’s efforts to work with the new Egyptian government to achieve a sustainable cease-fire and a more durable solution to this problem.”

Obama also “commended” Netanyahu for agreeing to the truce.

The statement said Obama would “use the opportunity offered by a cease-fire to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza. The president said that he was committed to seeking additional funding for Iron Dome and other US-Israel missile defense programs.”

Obama also spoke with Morsi and thanked him for his efforts and leadership. The statement said Obama and Morsi “agreed on the importance of working toward a more durable solution to the situation in Gaza.”
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