Tel Aviv has ruled out a timetable for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip despite declaring a 'unilateral ceasefire'.
Israel rebuffed the United Nations calls for setting such a timetable, saying "We can't talk about a timetable for withdrawal until we know the ceasefire is holding," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
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"If there is a danger Hamas is going to deliberately torpedo the cease-fire, and we will have to reinitiate offensive actions against Hamas, for that reason we have to be reticent about withdrawing our forces," Regev added.
Earlier in the day, the premier termed the unilateral ceasefire as 'fragile', saying the military forces were free to respond to attacks by Palestinian fighters, Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported.
"Israeli forces inside the Gaza Strip and many more encircling the Gaza Strip are...prepared to act in any area in accordance with their commanders' orders if and when the cease-fire violations," said Olmert.
Meanwhile, Hamas declared an immediate halt to the rocket attacks into Israel, giving Tel Aviv one week to completely pull out its forces from the territory.
The movement has also called for the opening of all border-crossings to allow in 'the basic needs of the people', including food, medical supplies and other goods.
Israel launched an all-out unilateral war against the besieged costal strip three weeks ago, leaving at least 1,300 people killed and 6000 others wounded.
Sun, 18 Jan 2009 14:42:55 GMT
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