Israel accepts ceasefire offer

Olmert hopeful that end to violence will bring end to IDF's Gaza operations.

Hamas supporters 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas supporters 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel announced on Saturday, following a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, that it would accept the Palestinian factions' offer of a ceasefire. According to the Prime Minister's Office, Abbas phoned Olmert and told him he had received an agreement from all the different Palestinian factions to the cease-fire, and in response "requested that Israel would stop all military operations in the Gaza Strip, and withdraw all its forces from there." The statement said that after speaking to his senior ministers and top security officials, Olmert told Abbas that Israel would respond favorably "since Israel was operating in the Gaza Strip in response to the [Palestinian] violence." Olmert, according to the statement, told Abbas that "the end of the violence could bring about the end of Israeli operations, and his hope that this would bring stability to both sides." According to the statement, the two "agreed to continue the dialogue to bring about an end of violence in the West Bank, and agreed to talk again soon." No mention was made in the statement about kidnapped soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, whose abduction on June 25 led to the IDF's stepped-up actions in Gaza. The agreement, according to Israeli officials, did not apply to military actions in the West Bank. The key now, the officials said, would be to see whether indeed all the different Palestinian factions have signed on - and would honor - the cease-fire agreement. Palestinian terrorist groups announced the offer on Saturday, saying that they would stop firing rockets at Israel at 6 a.m. Sunday. "We have set 6 a.m. tomorrow morning to stop firing rockets toward Zionist towns in our occupied land in return for a mutual cessation of the aggression committed against our people," said Abu Mujahed, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees. Washington was full of praise for the cease-fire agreement. A White House spokesman said that it viewed the joint announcement as "a positive step," adding that the US hoped the agreement would diminish the bloodshed between the Israelis and Palestinians. However, the armed faction of the Islamic Jihad and Abu Reish, an armed faction of Fatah, both announced early Sunday that they were not part of the ceasefire agreement. A spokesman for Abu Reish denied the movement's participation in Saturday's meeting between Palestinian Authority Prime Minster Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian factions during which the ceasefire was agreed. AP contributed to this report