Factions Give Israel Week to Quit Gaza

Palestinian resistance groups announced a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, January 18, giving Israeli occupation forces one week to pull out from the territory.

"We in the Palestinian resistance movements announce a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and demand that enemy forces withdraw in a week and open all the border crossings to permit the entry of humanitarian aid and basic goods," Hamas deputy chief Moussa Abu Marzuk said in a televised statement.

He added that Palestinian factions would resume fighting if Israel failed to withdraw from the strip.

"We offered the week-long ceasefire to allow them to withdraw and open the crossings," Abu Marzuk later told the Doha-based Al-Jazeera television.

"Otherwise, we will resume fighting."

The Hamas leader said the factions are ready to sign any deal that guarantees the lifting of the long-running siege on Gaza.

"We are ready to accept all efforts, particularly those of the Egyptians, Turks, Syrians and Qataris, to reach an agreement that meets our known demands, especially the lifting once and for all of the blockade and the opening of all crossings, including Rafah."

The leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic earlier Sunday joined Arab leaders in asking Israel to withdraw all its troops from the Gaza Strip.

While French President Nicolas Sarkozy linked the pullout to an end to rocket attacks, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown demanded an immediate withdrawal.

More than 1,300 people, at least half of them civilians, have been killed and 5,300 wounded in Israel’s 22-day deadly offensive that left much of the small territory of 1.6 million people in ruins.

Gradual Pullout

Israeli occupation forces have already started withdrawing from the bombed-out Gaza Strip.

"I can confirm that there is a gradual withdrawal from the Gaza Strip," an Israeli army spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Witnesses said Israeli troops pulled out from key positions in and around Gaza City.

They added that the forces withdrew toward the Israeli border fence in eastern and northern Gaza.

Some ground forces remained at key points in Gaza.

Israeli television images showed pictures of soldiers walking out of the battered coastal strip.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev earlier told Haaretz they would not give a timetable for troop withdrawal from Gaza.

"We can’t talk about a timetable for withdrawal until we know the ceasefire is holding."

Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert earlier described the ceasefire as fragile and said Israel could reconsider its position.
(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)

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