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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Tel Aviv will observe a 'unilateral ceasefire' after pounding Gaza non-stop for 22 consecutive days.
Olmert made the announcement in a press conference held in Tel Aviv, adding that Israel "has achieved the objectives set by the cabinet."
The premier said the decision was made after talks with Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak and in light of an agreement between Tel Aviv and Washington which was reached on Friday.
However, the ceasefire, which comes into effect at 2:00 a.m. local time (0000 GMT), does not include Hamas and negotiations with the resistance movement nor does it mean a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.
Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on December 27 in form of seaborne and airborne attacks and later expanded the onslaught into a full-fledged ground incursion on January 3.
Acknowledging that the aggression has so far left over 1,215 Palestinians - over 600 of whom civilians - killed and more than 6,000 others wounded, Olmert addressed Gaza citizens saying with this uniquely bizarre statement: "We do not hate you, we did not and do not want to hurt you."
This is while according to Tel Aviv's official figures only 12 Israeli soldiers have been killed and 85 others have been wounded. Hamas, however, puts the Israeli casualties at 34 killed and 96 wounded.
Tel Aviv launched the military campaign under the pretext of stopping the rocket-firings from the costal sliver, but later said that the main goal of the operation was to topple the democratically-elected Hamas government in the region.
In the wake of the 'unilateral ceasefire' the Israeli prime minister said that Tel Aviv has 'taken the positions from which the rockets were being fired at Israeli settlements' and has blocked the 'tunnels' through which arms where being 'smuggled' into the Gaza Strip.
Despite reaching such 'achievements' the Israeli army have remained in the costal strip and the Palestinian fighters are still firing rockets at southern Israeli towns.
Sat, 17 Jan 2009 22:08:15 GMT
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