Gaza Ceasefire Will Begin Thursday 6am

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have approved a truce with the Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, Israeli public radio said Wednesday.

An Israeli Defense official said the Egyptian brokered truce would be implemented starting at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Thursday morning.

The decision was taken overnight following the return to Israel of Amos Gilad, a top Barak aide, from Cairo where he had met Egyptian officials who had mediated with Hamas.

"This is not a peace agreement. There is an understanding that is based on the effectiveness of military activities until now, and the will to stop it. At this point, we are exhausting the possibilities," Gilad told Israel radio.

Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev declined to comment on the report when questioned by AFP.

Egyptian negotiators said Tuesday that after months of negotiations aimed at halting bloodshed in and around the impoverished territory they had got Israel and Hamas to agree on a truce.

Hamas confirmed that it had agreed to an Egyptian-brokered deal that would see it halt all attacks from Thursday. Israeli officials were more cautious, saying that they would wait and see what happened when the truce came into effect.

Gilad said on Israeli public radio Wednesday morning that the "question with the Egyptians on the agreement regarding a total ceasefire was that if there is new firing (from Gaza), no matter by whom, it will be a violation of the agreement."

Israel has said it would continue preparing for possible large-scale military action should a truce fall apart.

Hamas official in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri said the deal now "means that we have … a binding agreement for both sides, the Palestinian and the Israeli."

"We in Hamas stress our full commitment to the agreement and the ball now is on the Israeli court to translate this agreement into actions on the ground," Zuhri said.

(Agencies via Alarabiya.net)

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